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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Exploring signatures of positive selection in pigmentation candidate genes in populations of East Asian ancestry

Jessica L Hider1, Rachel M Gittelman2, Tapan Shah3, Melissa Edwards1, Arnold Rosenbloom3, Joshua M Akey2 and Esteban J Parra1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

2 Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

3 Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences, University of Toronto at Mississauga, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:150  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-150

Published: 12 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Currently, there is very limited knowledge about the genes involved in normal pigmentation variation in East Asian populations. We carried out a genome-wide scan of signatures of positive selection using the 1000 Genomes Phase I dataset, in order to identify pigmentation genes showing putative signatures of selective sweeps in East Asia. We applied a broad range of methods to detect signatures of selection including: 1) Tests designed to identify deviations of the Site Frequency Spectrum (SFS) from neutral expectations (Tajima’s D, Fay and Wu’s H and Fu and Li’s D* and F*), 2) Tests focused on the identification of high-frequency haplotypes with extended linkage disequilibrium (iHS and Rsb) and 3) Tests based on genetic differentiation between populations (LSBL). Based on the results obtained from a genome wide analysis of 25 kb windows, we constructed an empirical distribution for each statistic across all windows, and identified pigmentation genes that are outliers in the distribution.

Results

Our tests identified twenty genes that are relevant for pigmentation biology. Of these, eight genes (ATRN, EDAR, KLHL7, MITF, OCA2, TH, TMEM33 and TRPM1,) were extreme outliers (top 0.1% of the empirical distribution) for at least one statistic, and twelve genes (ADAM17, BNC2, CTSD, DCT, EGFR, LYST, MC1R, MLPH, OPRM1, PDIA6, PMEL (SILV) and TYRP1) were in the top 1% of the empirical distribution for at least one statistic. Additionally, eight of these genes (BNC2, EGFR, LYST, MC1R, OCA2, OPRM1, PMEL (SILV) and TYRP1) have been associated with pigmentary traits in association studies.

Conclusions

We identified a number of putative pigmentation genes showing extremely unusual patterns of genetic variation in East Asia. Most of these genes are outliers for different tests and/or different populations, and have already been described in previous scans for positive selection, providing strong support to the hypothesis that recent selective sweeps left a signature in these regions. However, it will be necessary to carry out association and functional studies to demonstrate the implication of these genes in normal pigmentation variation.