Paleoanthropology. Who were the Denisovans?

Science (Impact Factor: 33.61). 08/2011; 333(6046):1084-7. DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6046.1084
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: In order to understand the genetic basis for the evolutionary success of modern humans, it is necessary to compare their genetic makeup to that of closely related species. Unfortunately, our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, are evolutionarily quite distant. With the advent of ancient DNA study and more recently paleogenomics - the study of the genomes of ancient organisms - it has become possible to compare human genomes to those of much more closely related groups. Our closest known relatives are the Neanderthals, which evolved and lived in Europe and Western Asia, from about 600,000 years ago until their disappearance around 30,000 years ago following the expansion of anatomically modern humans into their range. The closely related Denisovans are only known by virtue of their DNA, which has been extracted from bone fragments dating around 30,000 to 50,000 years ago found in a single Siberian cave. Analyses of Neanderthal and Denisovan nuclear and mitochondrial genomes have revealed surprising insights into these archaic humans as well as our own species. The genomes provide a preliminary catalogue of derived amino acids that are specific to all extant modern humans, thus offering insights into the functional differences between the three lineages. In addition, the genomes provide evidence of gene flow between the three lineages after anatomically modern humans left Africa, drastically changing our view of human evolution.
    Current biology: CB 12/2011; 21(24):R1002-9. DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.021 · 9.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: High-throughput sequencing technologies frequently necessitate the use of PCR for sequencing library amplification. PCR is a sometimes enigmatic process and is known to introduce biases. Here we perform a simple amplification-sequencing assay using 10 commercially available polymerase-buffer systems to amplify libraries prepared from both modern and ancient DNA. We compare the performance of the polymerases with respect to a previously uncharacterized template length bias, as well as GC-content bias, and find that simply avoiding certain polymerase can dramatically decrease the occurrence of both. For amplification of ancient DNA, we found that some commonly used polymerases strongly bias against amplification of endogenous DNA in favor of GC-rich microbial contamination, in our case reducing the fraction of endogenous sequences to almost half.
    BioTechniques 02/2012; 52(2):87-94. DOI:10.2144/000113809 · 2.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although an African origin of the modern human species is generally accepted, the evolutionary processes involved in the speciation, geographical spread, and eventual extinction of archaic humans outside of Africa are much debated. An additional complexity has been the recent evidence of limited interbreeding between modern humans and the Neandertals and Denisovans. Modern human migrations and interactions began during the buildup to the Last Glacial Maximum, starting about 100,000 years ago. By examining the history of other organisms through glacial cycles, valuable models for evolutionary biogeography can be formulated. According to one such model, the adoption of a new refugium by a subgroup of a species may lead to important evolutionary changes.
    Science 03/2012; 335(6074):1317-21. DOI:10.1126/science.1215627 · 33.61 Impact Factor
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