Spatial and temporal distribution of the neutral polymorphisms in the last ZFX intron: Analysis of the haplotype structure and genealogy

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With 10 segregating sites (simple nucleotide polymorphisms) in the last intron (1089 bp) of the ZFX gene we have observed 11 haplotypes in 336 chromosomes representing a worldwide array of 15 human populations. Two haplotypes representing 77% of all chromosomes were distributed almost evenly among four continents. Five of the remaining haplotypes were detected in Africa and 4 others were restricted to Eurasia and the Americas. Using the information about the ancestral state of the segregating positions (inferred from human-great ape comparisons), we applied coalescent analysis to estimate the age of the polymorphisms and the resulting haplotypes. The oldest haplotype, with the ancestral alleles at all the sites, was observed at low frequency only in two groups of African origin. Its estimated age of 740 to 1100 kyr corresponded to the time to the most recent common ancestor. The two most frequent worldwide distributed haplotypes were estimated at 550 to 840 and 260 to 400 kyr, respectively, while the age of the continentally restricted polymorphisms was 120 to 180 kyr and smaller. Comparison of spatial and temporal distribution of the ZFX haplotypes suggests that modern humans diverged from the common ancestral stock in the Middle Paleolithic era. Subsequent range expansion prevented substantial gene flow among continents, separating African groups from populations that colonized Eurasia and the New World.

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