Genetic Structure of the Ancestral Population of Modern Humans
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Neutral DNA polymorphisms from an 8-kb segment of the dystrophin gene, previously ascertained in a worldwide sample (n= 250 chromosomes), were used to characterize the population ancestral to the present-day human groups. The ancestral state of each polymorphic site was determined by comparing human variants with their orthologous sites in the great apes. The ``age before fixation'' of the underlying mutations was estimated from the frequencies of the new alleles and analyzed in the context of these polymorphisms' distribution among 13 populations from Africa, Europe, Asia, New Guinea, and the Americas (n= 860 chromosomes in total). Seventeen polymorphisms older tan 100,000–200,000 years, which contributed ∼90% to the overall nucleotide diversity, were common to all human groups. Polymorphisms endemic to human groups or continentally restricted were younger than 100,000–200,000 years. Africans (six populations) with 13 such sites stood out from the rest of the world (seven populations), where only 2 population-specific variants were observed. The similarity of the frequencies of the old polymorphisms in Africans and non-Africans suggested a similar profile of genetic variability in the population before the modern human's divergence. This ancestral population was characterized by an effective size of about 10,000 as estimated from the nucleotide diversity; this size may describe the number of breeding individuals over a long time during the Middle Pleistocene or reflect a speciation bottleneck from an initially larger population at the end of this period.
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