July 19, 2019  |  

Genetic variation and the de novo assembly of human genomes.

The discovery of genetic variation and the assembly of genome sequences are both inextricably linked to advances in DNA-sequencing technology. Short-read massively parallel sequencing has revolutionized our ability to discover genetic variation but is insufficient to generate high-quality genome assemblies or resolve most structural variation. Full resolution of variation is only guaranteed by complete de novo assembly of a genome. Here, we review approaches to genome assembly, the nature of gaps or missing sequences, and biases in the assembly process. We describe the challenges of generating a complete de novo genome assembly using current technologies and the impact that being able to perfectly sequence the genome would have on understanding human disease and evolution. Finally, we summarize recent technological advances that improve both contiguity and accuracy and emphasize the importance of complete de novo assembly as opposed to read mapping as the primary means to understanding the full range of human genetic variation.


July 19, 2019  |  

Emergence of a Homo sapiens-specific gene family and chromosome 16p11.2 CNV susceptibility.

Genetic differences that specify unique aspects of human evolution have typically been identified by comparative analyses between the genomes of humans and closely related primates, including more recently the genomes of archaic hominins. Not all regions of the genome, however, are equally amenable to such study. Recurrent copy number variation (CNV) at chromosome 16p11.2 accounts for approximately 1% of cases of autism and is mediated by a complex set of segmental duplications, many of which arose recently during human evolution. Here we reconstruct the evolutionary history of the locus and identify bolA family member 2 (BOLA2) as a gene duplicated exclusively in Homo sapiens. We estimate that a 95-kilobase-pair segment containing BOLA2 duplicated across the critical region approximately 282 thousand years ago (ka), one of the latest among a series of genomic changes that dramatically restructured the locus during hominid evolution. All humans examined carried one or more copies of the duplication, which nearly fixed early in the human lineage-a pattern unlikely to have arisen so rapidly in the absence of selection (P?


July 7, 2019  |  

Chromosomal rearrangements as barriers to genetic homogenization between archaic and modern humans.

Chromosomal rearrangements, which shuffle DNA throughout the genome, are an important source of divergence across taxa. Using a paired-end read approach with Illumina sequence data for archaic humans, I identify changes in genome structure that occurred recently in human evolution. Hundreds of rearrangements indicate genomic trafficking between the sex chromosomes and autosomes, raising the possibility of sex-specific changes. Additionally, genes adjacent to genome structure changes in Neanderthals are associated with testis-specific expression, consistent with evolutionary theory that new genes commonly form with expression in the testes. I identify one case of new-gene creation through transposition from the Y chromosome to chromosome 10 that combines the 5′-end of the testis-specific gene Fank1 with previously untranscribed sequence. This new transcript experienced copy number expansion in archaic genomes, indicating rapid genomic change. Among rearrangements identified in Neanderthals, 13% are transposition of selfish genetic elements, whereas 32% appear to be ectopic exchange between repeats. In Denisovan, the pattern is similar but numbers are significantly higher with 18% of rearrangements reflecting transposition and 40% ectopic exchange between distantly related repeats. There is an excess of divergent rearrangements relative to polymorphism in Denisovan, which might result from nonuniform rates of mutation, possibly reflecting a burst of transposable element activity in the lineage that led to Denisovan. Finally, loci containing genome structure changes show diminished rates of introgression from Neanderthals into modern humans, consistent with the hypothesis that rearrangements serve as barriers to gene flow during hybridization. Together, these results suggest that this previously unidentified source of genomic variation has important biological consequences in human evolution. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


July 7, 2019  |  

Pseudoautosomal region 1 length polymorphism in the human population.

The human sex chromosomes differ in sequence, except for the pseudoautosomal regions (PAR) at the terminus of the short and the long arms, denoted as PAR1 and PAR2. The boundary between PAR1 and the unique X and Y sequences was established during the divergence of the great apes. During a copy number variation screen, we noted a paternally inherited chromosome X duplication in 15 independent families. Subsequent genomic analysis demonstrated that an insertional translocation of X chromosomal sequence into theMa Y chromosome generates an extended PAR. The insertion is generated by non-allelic homologous recombination between a 548 bp LTR6B repeat within the Y chromosome PAR1 and a second LTR6B repeat located 105 kb from the PAR boundary on the X chromosome. The identification of the reciprocal deletion on the X chromosome in one family and the occurrence of the variant in different chromosome Y haplogroups demonstrate this is a recurrent genomic rearrangement in the human population. This finding represents a novel mechanism shaping sex chromosomal evolution.


July 7, 2019  |  

Neolithic mitochondrial haplogroup H genomes and the genetic origins of Europeans.

Haplogroup H dominates present-day Western European mitochondrial DNA variability (>40%), yet was less common (~19%) among Early Neolithic farmers (~5450 BC) and virtually absent in Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Here we investigate this major component of the maternal population history of modern Europeans and sequence 39 complete haplogroup H mitochondrial genomes from ancient human remains. We then compare this ‘real-time’ genetic data with cultural changes taking place between the Early Neolithic (~5450 BC) and Bronze Age (~2200 BC) in Central Europe. Our results reveal that the current diversity and distribution of haplogroup H were largely established by the Mid Neolithic (~4000 BC), but with substantial genetic contributions from subsequent pan-European cultures such as the Bell Beakers expanding out of Iberia in the Late Neolithic (~2800 BC). Dated haplogroup H genomes allow us to reconstruct the recent evolutionary history of haplogroup H and reveal a mutation rate 45% higher than current estimates for human mitochondria.


July 7, 2019  |  

The evolution and population diversity of human-specific segmental duplications

Segmental duplications contribute to human evolution, adaptation and genomic instability but are often poorly characterized. We investigate the evolution, genetic variation and coding potential of human-specific segmental duplications (HSDs). We identify 218 HSDs based on analysis of 322 deeply sequenced archaic and contemporary hominid genomes. We sequence 550 human and nonhuman primate genomic clones to reconstruct the evolution of the largest, most complex regions with protein-coding potential (N?=?80 genes from 33 gene families). We show that HSDs are non-randomly organized, associate preferentially with ancestral ape duplications termed ‘core duplicons’ and evolved primarily in an interspersed inverted orientation. In addition to Homo sapiens-specific gene expansions (such as TCAF1/TCAF2), we highlight ten gene families (for example, ARHGAP11B and SRGAP2C) where copy number never returns to the ancestral state, there is evidence of mRNA splicing and no common gene-disruptive mutations are observed in the general population. Such duplicates are candidates for the evolution of human-specific adaptive traits.


July 7, 2019  |  

The Mobile Element Locator Tool (MELT): population-scale mobile element discovery and biology.

Mobile element insertions (MEIs) represent ~25% of all structural variants in human genomes. Moreover, when they disrupt genes, MEIs can influence human traits and diseases. Therefore, MEIs should be fully discovered along with other forms of genetic variation in whole genome sequencing (WGS) projects involving population genetics, human diseases, and clinical genomics. Here, we describe the Mobile Element Locator Tool (MELT), which was developed as part of the 1000 Genomes Project to perform MEI discovery on a population scale. Using both Illumina WGS data and simulations, we demonstrate that MELT outperforms existing MEI discovery tools in terms of speed, scalability, specificity, and sensitivity, while also detecting a broader spectrum of MEI-associated features. Several run modes were developed to perform MEI discovery on local and cloud systems. In addition to using MELT to discover MEIs in modern humans as part of the 1000 Genomes Project, we also used it to discover MEIs in chimpanzees and ancient (Neanderthal and Denisovan) hominids. We detected diverse patterns of MEI stratification across these populations that likely were caused by (1) diverse rates of MEI production from source elements, (2) diverse patterns of MEI inheritance, and (3) the introgression of ancient MEIs into modern human genomes. Overall, our study provides the most comprehensive map of MEIs to date spanning chimpanzees, ancient hominids, and modern humans and reveals new aspects of MEI biology in these lineages. We also demonstrate that MELT is a robust platform for MEI discovery and analysis in a variety of experimental settings.© 2017 Gardner et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.


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