7 Ways the Mafia Made the U.S. a Better Place

TGGP drops a link to an article (republished by the ever-daring LewRockwell.com) by a HuffingtonPost contributor who fancies himself a purveyor of "Renegade History". Thaddeus Russell says America has Jewish and Italian gangsters to thank for:
  • Jazz music
  • Las Vegas
  • Hollywood
  • Racial mixing
  • "Gay liberation"
I especially enjoyed Russell's retelling of how plucky Jewish gangsters and movie makers warded off attempts by Thomas Edison's thugs to defend Edison's intellectual and physical property:

23andMe sale today (24 November)

For those who are interested, according to someone on twitter:
DIYgenomics: @23andMe $99 discount returns; code B84YAG to be live 10 AM Wednesday for the new v3 chip
The updated chip is said to be the Illumina OmniExpress Plus:
The original press release described a chip with coverage of 733,202 markers, while the enhanced "Plus" version appears to cover greater than 900,000 markers. Either way, it is a significant upgrade from the previous 580,000 SNPs.
Update: Discount code works. New chip tests 1,000,000+ SNPs.


PDF slides of some presentations from Family Tree DNA's "6th International Conference on Genetic Genealogy", which took place at the end of October: Family Finder: Looking Under the Hood; Family Finder & Population Finder; "Inferring Genetic Ancestry: Oppourtunities, Challenges, and Implications"; IT Roadmap 2010; Predicting Individual Ancestry Using Genome-wide Genetic Data; Summarizing and Anticipating the Next Decade with NRY, mtDNA, and Autosomal DNA; Walk Through the Y Project.

Michael Hammer (according to an attendee): "village of origin can and will be done in the future as the database grows".

The 60th Annual ASHG meeting was held November 2-6 in Washington, D.C. A 23andMe employee comments and links to other coverage (see end of post) here. Video and slides from a 1000 Genomes Project tutorial here.
According to Luke Jostins:
at Biology of Genomes conference in May of next year; we’ll be putting out a large (~1100) sample dataset from around a dozen populations. These will be based on low-coverage whole-genome and high-coverage exome data on every sample, along with >2M genotypes from the Omni2.5 chip, to create a very high-quality set of data. Lots of work is going into putting together combined SNP, indel and CNV calls as nicely phased haplotypes. This dataset should be a massive boon to association studies
This should also provide an additional public source of data for people undertaking projects like Polako's and Dienekes'.

CF mutant heterozygote advantage in heavy metal exposure

Teeth and leg bones from Iron Age people are showing a 21st century scientific-research team that there might be an evolutionary silver lining to the gene defects that cause cystic fibrosis (CF)
DNA analysis of ancient archeological finds is revealing that some CF gene defects may protect those who carry them from lead and other metal poisoning, or perhaps tuberculosis. [. . .]

Since the protective CF gene mutation is so common among people living in or coming originally from central and Western Europe, Farrell suspects that the mutation first arose in that part of the world, very likely in early Celtic populations. [. . .]

To understand what in the environment could cause the mutated CF gene to occur in the first place, Farrell turned to ancient burial remains. Evidence from his earlier studies already showed that transgenic mice carrying the gene might be resistant to lead toxicity. He wanted to see if there were links to people living in Europe during the Iron and Bronze Ages.

“This was an era in which people were exposed to toxic heavy metals for the first time in history,” he says. [. . .]

The first analyses are showing that specimens containing CF gene defects were not affected by lead or other metal poisoning, hinting at the mutation’s protective advantage. The specimens also contained very little tuberculosis. The scientists can’t pinpoint exactly where the first CF carrier may have lived, but they think current day Austria is a good candidate.
Via Jean M. The manuscript is freely available at Nature Precedings: Discovery of the Principal Cystic Fibrosis Mutation (F508del) in Ancient DNA from Iron Age Europeans

Icelandic C1 distinct from Amerindian and Asian subclades

A new subclade of mtDNA haplogroup C1 found in icelanders: Evidence of pre-columbian contact?
Although most mtDNA lineages observed in contemporary Icelanders can be traced to neighboring populations in the British Isles and Scandinavia, one may have a more distant origin. This lineage belongs to haplogroup C1, one of a handful that was involved in the settlement of the Americas around 14,000 years ago. Contrary to an initial assumption that this lineage was a recent arrival, preliminary genealogical analyses revealed that the C1 lineage was present in the Icelandic mtDNA pool at least 300 years ago. This raised the intriguing possibility that the Icelandic C1 lineage could be traced to Viking voyages to the Americas that commenced in the 10th century. In an attempt to shed further light on the entry date of the C1 lineage into the Icelandic mtDNA pool and its geographical origin, we used the deCODE Genetics genealogical database to identify additional matrilineal ancestors that carry the C1 lineage and then sequenced the complete mtDNA genome of 11 contemporary C1 carriers from four different matrilines. Our results indicate a latest possible arrival date in Iceland of just prior to 1700 and a likely arrival date centuries earlier. Most surprisingly, we demonstrate that the Icelandic C1 lineage does not belong to any of the four known Native American (C1b, C1c, and C1d) or Asian (C1a) subclades of haplogroup C1. Rather, it is presently the only known member of a new subclade, C1e. While a Native American origin seems most likely for C1e, an Asian or European origin cannot be ruled out. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2010.
The logic and evidence behind the authors' assertion that "a Native American origin seems most likely" is wanting; I find it much more likely C1 entered Iceland via Europe. Scientists will need to look elsewhere to explain Björk.
The 11 mutations that differentiate the Icelandic C1 sequences from the C1 root are in the upper range of mutation counts that differentiate the other C1 sequences from the root. [. . .]

A simple [polite way of saying retarded] argument in favor of a Native American origin of C1e is the fact that three of the four previously characterized C1 subclades are associated with these groups and the vast majority of C1 sequences in the literature have been sampled from individuals of Native American ancestry. [. . .]

The German sequence (Pfeiffer et al., 2001) represents a perfect match to the Icelandic C1e for the short HVS1 fragment spanning sites 16024–16365. This raises the intriguing, but perhaps unlikely, hypothesis that C1e is a European-specific subclade of C1, following the precedent of the European and Native American subclades of mtDNA haplogroup X2 (Brown et al., 1998; Reidla et al., 2003). However, given the dense sampling of mtDNA variation in European populations, it is clear that C1e is exceedingly rare, a fact that weighs against a hypothesis of antiquity in Europe.
The frequency of C1 in a sample of 1538 Icelandic mtDNA sequences was 0.26%. Coincidentally, another abstract that recently appeared in PubMed is that of a Russian publication reporting:
The role of natural selection in the evolution of human populations from Northeastern Eurasia was studied. Selection for the regions-specific haplogroup C was demonstrated.

Update on People of the British Isles project

A reader forwarded me this message, posted to a mailing list by a third party:
One of my project members wrote to one of the organisers of the People of the British Isles Project to find out a few more details. He was told the following:

"The data will be made publicly available after we have done some analyses, and so anyone should be able to get hold of it when it is!

As for SNPs, we have had 3,000 samples typed on a large scale (about 1.2M SNPs, of which something like 2,000 are on the Y-chromosome). There are about 150 or so that are on the y-chromosome consortium tree, so hopefully we should get quite a lot of information out of the analyses!"

That should make a big difference to Population Finder and all the other admixture tests. Perhaps those of us who already know that we are of 100% British origin might then actually get some meaningful results. The Orkney Islands are not exactly a good proxy for the entire British Isles!
The website is showing a total of 4214 samples collected.

Amerindian admixture in Gaspesia (Franch Canadia)

When Genetics and Genealogies Tell Different Stories-Maternal Lineages in Gaspesia
Data from uniparentally inherited genetic systems were used to trace evolution of human populations. Reconstruction of the past primarily relies on variation in present-day populations, limiting historical inference to lineages that are found among living subjects. Our analysis of four population groups in the Gaspé Peninsula, demonstrates how this may occasionally lead to erroneous interpretations. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Gaspesians revealed an important admixture with Native Americans. The most likely scenario links this admixture to French-Canadians from the St. Lawrence Valley who moved to Gaspesia in the 19th century. However, in contrast to genetic data, analysis of genealogical record shows that Native American maternal lineages were brought to Gaspesia in the 18th century by Acadians who settled on the south-western coast of the peninsula. Intriguingly, within three generations, virtually all Métis Acadian families separated from their nonadmixed relatives and moved eastward mixing in with other Gaspesian groups, in which Native American maternal lines are present in relatively high frequencies. Over time, the carriers of these lines eventually lost memory of their mixed Amerindian-Acadian origin. Our results show that a reliable reconstruction of population history requires cross-verification of different data sources for consistency, thus favouring multidisciplinary approaches.
I haven't read the article, so I have no idea on what basis the authors assert DNA results specifically pointed to "French-Canadians from the St. Lawrence Valley who moved to Gaspesia in the 19th century" as the most likely source of the admixture; but I'm all in favor of integrating DNA results with genealogical records in studies of this sort.

Ancestry analysis method

Jombart T, Devillard S, Balloux F. Discriminant analysis of principal components: a new method for the analysis of genetically structured populations. BMC Genet. 2010 Oct 15;11(1):94.
BACKGROUND: The dramatic progress in sequencing technologies offers unprecedented prospects for deciphering the organization of natural populations in space and time. However, the size of the datasets generated also poses some daunting challenges. In particular, Bayesian clustering algorithms based on pre-defined population genetics models such as the STRUCTURE or BAPS software may not be able to cope with this unprecedented amount of data. Thus, there is a need for less computer-intensive approaches. Multivariate analyses seem particularly appealing as they are specifically devoted to extracting information from large datasets. Unfortunately, currently available multivariate methods still lack some essential features needed to study the genetic structure of natural populations.

RESULTS: We introduce the Discriminant Analysis of Principal Components (DAPC), a multivariate method designed to identify and describe clusters of genetically related individuals. When group priors are lacking, DAPC uses sequential K-means and model selection to infer genetic clusters. Our approach allows extracting rich information from genetic data, providing assignment of individuals to groups, a visual assessment of between-population differentiation, and contribution of individual alleles to population structuring. We evaluate the performance of our method using simulated data, which were also analyzed using STRUCTURE as a benchmark. Additionally, we illustrate the method by analyzing microsatellite polymorphism in worldwide human populations and hemagglutinin gene sequence variation in seasonal influenza.

CONCLUSIONS: Analysis of simulated data revealed that our approach performs generally better than STRUCTURE at characterizing population subdivision. The tools implemented in DAPC for the identification of clusters and graphical representation of between-group structures allow to unravel complex population structures. Our approach is also faster than Bayesian clustering algorithms by several orders of magnitude, and may be applicable to a wider range of datasets.
Website: http://adegenet.r-forge.r-project.org/

Demographic simulation framework

Ray N, Currat M, Foll M, Excoffier L. SPLATCHE2: a spatially-explicit simulation framework for complex demography, genetic admixture and recombination. Bioinformatics. 2010 Oct 17.
SUMMARY: SPLATCHE2 is a program to simulate the demography of populations and the resulting molecular diversity for a wide range of evolutionary scenarios. The spatially-explicit simulation framework can account for environmental heterogeneity and fluctuations, and it can manage multiple population sources. A coalescent-based approach is used to generate genetic markers mostly used in population genetics studies (DNA sequences, SNPs, STRs, or RFLPs). Various combinations of independent, fully or partially linked genetic markers can be produced under a recombination model based on the ancestral recombination graph. Competition between two populations (or species) can also be simulated with user-defined levels of admixture between the two populations. SPLATCHE2 may be used to generate the expected genetic diversity under complex demographic scenarios and can thus serve to test null hypotheses. For model parameter estimation, SPLATCHE2 can easily be integrated into an Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) framework. Availability and Implementation: SPLATCHE2 is a C++ program compiled for Windows and Linux platforms. It is freely available at www.splatche.com, together with its related documentation and example data. CONTACT: mathias.currat@unige.ch.