PLoS Genetics recently published our paper, Genomic analysis of natural selection and phenotypic variation in high-altitude mongolians, demonstrating that present-day nomadic Deedu Mongolians share genetic ancestry with other Mongolians and with Tibetans:
Deedu (DU) Mongolians, who migrated from the Mongolian steppes to the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau approximately 500 years ago, are challenged by environmental conditions similar to native Tibetan highlanders. Identification of adaptive genetic factors in this population could provide insight into coordinated physiological responses to this environment. Here we examine genomic and phenotypic variation in this unique population and present the first complete analysis of a Mongolian whole-genome sequence. High-density SNP array data demonstrate that DU Mongolians share genetic ancestry with other Mongolian as well as Tibetan populations, specifically in genomic regions related with adaptation to high altitude. Several selection candidate genes identified in DU Mongolians are shared with other Asian groups (e.g., EDAR), neighboring Tibetan populations (including high-altitude candidates EPAS1, PKLR, and CYP2E1), as well as genes previously hypothesized to be associated with metabolic adaptation (e.g., PPARG). Hemoglobin concentration, a trait associated with high-altitude adaptation in Tibetans, is at an intermediate level in DU Mongolians compared to Tibetans and Han Chinese at comparable altitude. Whole-genome sequence from a DU Mongolian (Tianjiao1) shows that about 2% of the genomic variants, including more than 300 protein-coding changes, are specific to this individual. Our analyses of DU Mongolians and the first Mongolian genome provide valuable insight into genetic adaptation to extreme environments.
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