Monday, March 25, 2013

Natural selection reduced diversity on human Y chromosomes

We are officially in the ArXiv! Many thanks to Graham Coop for highlighting our paper over at Haldane's Sieve

Melissa A. Wilson Sayres, Kirk E. Lohmueller, and Rasmus Nielsen

The human Y chromosome exhibits surprisingly low levels of genetic diversity. This could result from neutral processes if the effective population size of males is reduced relative to females due to a higher variance in the number of offspring from males than from females. Alternatively, selection acting on new mutations, and affecting linked neutral sites, could reduce variability on the Y chromosome. Here, using genome-wide analyses of X, Y, autosomal and mitochondrial DNA, in combination with extensive population genetic simulations, we show that low observed Y chromosome variability is not consistent with a purely neutral model. Instead, we show that models of purifying selection are consistent with observed Y diversity. Further, the number of sites estimated to be under purifying selection greatly exceeds the number of Y-linked coding sites, suggesting the importance of the highly repetitive ampliconic regions. Because the functional significance of the ampliconic regions is poorly understood, our findings should motivate future research in this area.

We have submitted to PLoS Genetics, and I plan to present (as a talk or a poster) at SMBE 2013.

Cross-posted at the Nielsen Lab Blog.

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