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Extreme distribution of deleterious variation in a historically small and isolated population-insights from the Greenlandic Inuit

By Casper-Emil T Pedersen, Kirk E. Lohmueller, Niels Grarup, Peter Bjerregaard, Torben Hansen, Hans R Siegismund, Ida Moltke, Anders Albrechtsen

Posted 30 Jun 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/061440 (published DOI: 10.1534/genetics.116.193821)

The genetic consequences of a severe bottleneck on genetic load in humans are widely disputed. Based on exome sequencing of 18 Greenlandic Inuit we show that the Inuit have undergone a severe ~20,000 yearlong bottleneck. This has led to a markedly more extreme distribution of deleterious alleles than seen for any other human population. Compared to populations with much larger population sizes, we see an overall reduction in the number of variable sites, increased numbers of fixed sites, a lower heterozygosity, and increased mean allele frequency as well as more homozygous deleterious genotypes. This means, that the Inuit population is the perfect population to examine the effect of a bottleneck on genetic load. Compared to the European, Asian and African populations, we do not observe a difference in the overall number of derived alleles. In contrast, using proxies for genetic load we find that selection has acted less efficiently in the Inuit, under a recessive model. This fits with our simulations that predict a similar number of derived alleles but a true higher genetic load for the Inuit regardless of the genetic model. Finally, we find that the Inuit population has a great potential for mapping of disease-causing variants that are rare in large populations. In fact, we show that these alleles are more likely to be common, and thus easy to map, in the Inuit than in the Finnish and Latino populations; populations considered highly valuable for mapping studies due to recent bottleneck events.

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