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FADS1 and the timing of human adaptation to agriculture

By Sara Mathieson, Iain Mathieson

Posted 03 Jun 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/337998 (published DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msy180)

Variation at the FADS1/FADS2 gene cluster is functionally associated with differences in lipid metabolism and is often hypothesized to reflect adaptation to an agricultural diet. Here, we test the evidence for this relationship using both modern and ancient DNA data. We show that almost all the inhabitants of Europe carried the ancestral allele until the derived allele was introduced approximately 8,500 years ago by Early Neolithic farming populations. However, we also show that it was not under strong selection in these populations. We find that this allele, and other proposed agricultural adaptations at LCT/MCM6 and SLC22A4, were not strongly selected until much later, perhaps as late as the Bronze Age. Similarly, increased copy number variation at the salivary amylase gene AMY1 is not linked to the development of agriculture although, in this case, the putative adaptation precedes the agricultural transition. Our analysis shows that selection at the FADS locus was not tightly linked to the initial introduction of agriculture and the Neolithic transition. Further, it suggests that the strongest signals of recent human adaptation in Europe did not coincide with the Neolithic transition but with more recent changes in environment, diet or efficiency of selection due to increases in effective population size.

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