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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hints of deep genetic substructure in Iron Age Poland

A paper at Infection, Genetics and Evolution looks at the susceptibility to infectious diseases in two late Iron Age groups from Central Poland. I can't wait to see genome-wide and Y-chromosome data from these and other ancient Polish populations. Judging by the outcomes presented in this paper, and also rumors that I've heard from Polish labs, we're in for some major surprises. Emphasis is mine:

Abstract: For thousands of years human beings have resisted life-threatening pathogens. This ongoing battle is considered to be the major force shaping our gene pool as every micro-evolutionary process provokes specific shifts in the genome, both that of the host and the pathogen. Past populations were more susceptible to changes in allele frequencies not only due to selection pressure, but also as a result of genetic drift, migration and inbreeding. In the present study we have investigated the frequency of five polymorphisms within innate immune-response genes (SLC11A1 D543N, MBL2 G161A, P2RX7 A1513C, IL10 A-1082G, TLR2 –196 to –174 ins/del) related to susceptibility to infections in humans. The DNA of individuals from two early Roman-Period populations of Linowo and Rogowo was analysed. The distribution of three mutations varied significantly when compared to the modern Polish population. The TAFT analysis suggests that the decreased frequency of SLC11A1 D543N in modern Poles as compared to 2nd century Linowo samples is the result of non-stochastic mechanisms, such as purifying or balancing selection. The disparity in frequency of other mutations is most likely the result of genetic drift, an evolutionary force which is remarkably amplified in low-size groups. Together with the FST analysis, mtDNA haplotypes' distribution and deviation from the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, we suggest that the two populations were not interbreeding (despite the close proximity between them), but rather inbreeding, the results of which are particularly pronounced among Rogowo habitants.


Although no sound evidence of population differentiation was found when comparing the samples of Linowo and Rogowo, it is worth noticing that the distribution of mtDNA haplotypes between these two settlements differs remarkably. Apart from the two haplotypes (rCRS and 16126C) that occur in both studied groups, no other pattern of mtDNA SNPs is shared between them. The lack of reflection of these dissimilarities in the FST analysis is probably a result of the low-size group which is more exposed to result bias or low diversity of haplotypes among Rogowo individuals. All of the above allows to draw the theoretical conclusion that although these two settlements date back to the same period and are located within 55 km (or around 160 km along the Vistula River) of one another, they are genetically remote.

Lewandowska et al., The genetic profile of susceptibility to infectious diseases in Roman-Period populations from Central Poland, Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Volume 47, January 2017, Pages 1–8,

See also...

R1a-Z280 from Early Bronze Age Northern Poland

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