A powerful way to detect selection in a population is by modeling local allele frequency changes in a particular region of the genome under scenarios of selection and neutrality, and finding which model is most compatible with the data. Chen et al. (2010) developed a composite likelihood method called XP-CLR that uses an outgroup population to detect departures from neutrality which could be compatible with hard or soft sweeps, at linked sites near a beneficial allele. However, this method is most sensitive to recent selection and may miss selective events that happened a long time ago. To overcome this, we developed an extension of XP-CLR that jointly models the behavior of a selected allele in a three-population tree. Our method - called 3P-CLR - outperforms XP-CLR when testing for selection that occurred before two populations split from each other, and can distinguish between those events and events that occurred specifically in each of the populations after the split. We applied our new test to population genomic data from the 1000 Genomes Project, to search for selective sweeps that occurred before the split of Yoruba and Eurasians, but after their split from Neanderthals, and that could have led to the spread of modern-human-specific phenotypes. We also searched for sweep events that occurred in East Asians, Europeans and the ancestors of both populations, after their split from Yoruba. In both cases, we are able to confirm a number of regions identified by previous methods, and find several new candidates for selection in recent and ancient times. For some of these, we also find suggestive functional mutations that may have driven the selective events.
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