Neutral genomic regions refine models of recent rapid human population growth.

TitleNeutral genomic regions refine models of recent rapid human population growth.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsGazave E, Ma L, Chang D, Coventry A, Gao F, Muzny D, Boerwinkle E, Gibbs RA, Sing CF, Clark AG, Keinan A
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Date Published2014 Jan 14

Human populations have experienced dramatic growth since the Neolithic revolution. Recent studies that sequenced a very large number of individuals observed an extreme excess of rare variants and provided clear evidence of recent rapid growth in effective population size, although estimates have varied greatly among studies. All these studies were based on protein-coding genes, in which variants are also impacted by natural selection. In this study, we introduce targeted sequencing data for studying recent human history with minimal confounding by natural selection. We sequenced loci far from genes that meet a wide array of additional criteria such that mutations in these loci are putatively neutral. As population structure also skews allele frequencies, we sequenced 500 individuals of relatively homogeneous ancestry by first analyzing the population structure of 9,716 European Americans. We used very high coverage sequencing to reliably call rare variants and fit an extensive array of models of recent European demographic history to the site frequency spectrum. The best-fit model estimates ∼ 3.4% growth per generation during the last ∼ 140 generations, resulting in a population size increase of two orders of magnitude. This model fits the data very well, largely due to our observation that assumptions of more ancient demography can impact estimates of recent growth. This observation and results also shed light on the discrepancy in demographic estimates among recent studies.

Alternate JournalProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.