Luísa Pereira

University of Porto, Porto, Distrito do Porto, Portugal

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Publications (104)425.28 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The origins of Ashkenazi Jews remain highly controversial. Like Judaism, mitochondrial DNA is passed along the maternal line. Its variation in the Ashkenazim is highly distinctive, with four major and numerous minor founders. However, due to their rarity in the general population, these founders have been difficult to trace to a source. Here we show that all four major founders, ~40% of Ashkenazi mtDNA variation, have ancestry in prehistoric Europe, rather than the Near East or Caucasus. Furthermore, most of the remaining minor founders share a similar deep European ancestry. Thus the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Levant, as commonly supposed, nor recruited in the Caucasus, as sometimes suggested, but assimilated within Europe. These results point to a significant role for the conversion of women in the formation of Ashkenazi communities, and provide the foundation for a detailed reconstruction of Ashkenazi genealogical history.
    Nature Communications 10/2013; 4:2543. · 10.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The genetics of paragangliomas (PGL) and phaeochromocytomas (PCC) has experienced great progress in the last years, mainly after the identification of germline SDHx (SDHA, SDHB, SDHC and SDHD) mutations. Although the spectrum of SDHx mutations is well characterized in several series of PGL/PCC patients, the genetic background of Portuguese PGL/PCC patients is still largely unknown. We have performed a germline genetic screening of SDHB, SDHC, SDHD and SDHAF2 in a series of 37 patients (34 sporadic and three familial patients) from northern Portugal who developed PGL or PCC. The majority of patients (20 of 37; 54.1%) harboured germline SDHx mutations, including all familial cases (3/3) and 17 of the 34 sporadic cases (50.0%). The presence of germline SDHx mutations was significantly associated with younger age at diagnosis and extra-adrenal tumour location. Patients without germline SDHx mutations presented significantly higher levels of epinephrine and metanephrine than patients with germline SDHx mutations. In the group of 20 patients with germline mutations, 11 (55.0%) harboured a 15678bp deletion in the SDHB gene, encompassing the promoter and exon 1. The SDHB 15678bp deletion was associated with the same haplotype in all 11 patients, in contrast with the normal population where six different haplotypes were found. Our results highlight the importance of genetic screening in PGL and PCC patients and identified a SDHB large deletion with a founder effect in northern Portugal.
    Endocrine Related Cancer 10/2013; · 5.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The emergence of more refined chronologies for climate change and archaeology in prehistoric Africa, and for the evolution of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), now make it feasible to test more sophisticated models of early modern human dispersals suggested by mtDNA distributions. Here we have generated 42 novel whole-mtDNA genomes belonging to haplogroup L0, the most divergent clade in the maternal line of descent, and analysed them alongside the growing database of African lineages belonging to L0's sister clade, L1'6. We propose that the last common ancestor of modern human mtDNAs (carried by "mitochondrial Eve") possibly arose in central Africa ~180 ka, at a time of low population size. By ~130 ka two distinct groups of anatomically modern humans co-existed in Africa: broadly, the ancestors of many modern-day Khoe and San populations in the south and a second central/eastern African group that includes the ancestors of most extant worldwide populations. Early modern human dispersals correlate with climate changes, particularly the tropical African "megadroughts" of MIS 5 (marine isotope stage 5, 135-75 ka) which paradoxically may have facilitated expansions in central and eastern Africa, ultimately triggering the dispersal out of Africa of people carrying haplogroup L3 ~60 ka. Two south to east migrations are discernible within haplogroup LO. One, between 120 and 75 ka, represents the first unambiguous long-range modern human dispersal detected by mtDNA and might have allowed the dispersal of several markers of modernity. A second one, within the last 20 ka signalled by L0d, may have been responsible for the spread of southern click-consonant languages to eastern Africa, contrary to the view that these eastern examples constitute relicts of an ancient, much wider distribution.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(11):e80031. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the circular DNA molecule inside the mitochondria of all eukaryotic cells, has been shown to be under the effect of purifying selection in several species. Traditional testing of purifying selection has been based simply on ratios of nonsynonymous to synonymous mutations, without considering the relative age of each mutation, which can be determined by phylogenetic analysis of this non-recombining molecule. The incorporation of a mutation time-ordering from phylogeny and of predicted pathogenicity scores for nonsynonymous mutations allow a quantitative evaluation of the effects of purifying selection in human mtDNA. Here, by using this additional information, we show that purifying selection undoubtedly acts upon the mtDNA of other mammalian species/genera, namely Bos sp., Canis lupus, Mus musculus, Orcinus orca, Pan sp. and Sus scrofa. The effects of purifying selection were comparable in all species, leading to a significant major proportion of nonsynonymous variants with higher pathogenicity scores in the younger branches of the tree. We also derive recalibrated mutation rates for age estimates of ancestors of these various species and proposed a correction curve in order to take into account the effects of selection. Understanding this selection is fundamental to evolutionary studies and to the identification of deleterious mutations.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(3):e58993. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The presence of sub-Saharan L-type mtDNA sequences in North Africa has traditionally been explained by the recent slave trade. However, gene flow between sub-Saharan and northern African populations would also have been made possible earlier through the greening of the Sahara resulting from Early Holocene climatic improvement. In this article, we examine human dispersals across the Sahara through the analysis of the sub-Saharan mtDNA haplogroup L3e5, which is not only commonly found in the Lake Chad Basin (∼17%), but which also attains nonnegligible frequencies (∼10%) in some Northwestern African populations. Age estimates point to its origin ∼10 ka, probably directly in the Lake Chad Basin, where the clade occurs across linguistic boundaries. The virtual absence of this specific haplogroup in Daza from Northern Chad and all West African populations suggests that its migration took place elsewhere, perhaps through Northern Niger. Interestingly, independent confirmation of Early Holocene contacts between North Africa and the Lake Chad Basin have been provided by craniofacial data from Central Niger, supporting our suggestion that the Early Holocene offered a suitable climatic window for genetic exchanges between North and sub-Saharan Africa. In view of its younger founder age in North Africa, the discontinuous distribution of L3e5 was probably caused by the Middle Holocene re-expansion of the Sahara desert, disrupting the clade's original continuous spread.
    Annals of Human Genetics 01/2013; 77(6):513-523. · 2.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It is now known that several population movements have taken place at different times throughout southern Arabian prehistory. One of the principal questions under debate is if the Early Holocene peopling of southern Arabia was mainly due to input from the Levant during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B, to the expansion of an autochthonous population, or some combination of these demographic processes. Since previous genetic studies have not been able to include all parts of southern Arabia, we have helped fill this lacuna by collecting new population datasets from Oman (Dhofar) and Yemen (Al-Mahra and Bab el-Mandab). We identified several new haplotypes belonging to haplogroup R2 and generated its whole genome mtDNA tree with age estimates undertaken by different methods. R2, together with other considerably frequent southern Arabian mtDNA haplogroups (R0a, HV1, summing up more than 20% of the South Arabian gene pool) were used to infer the past effective population size through Bayesian skyline plots. These data indicate that the southern Arabian population underwent a large expansion already some 12 ka. A founder analysis of these haplogroups shows that this expansion is largely attributed to demographic input from the Near East. These results support thus the spread of a population coming from the north, but at a significantly earlier date than presently considered by archaeologists. Our data suggest that some of the mtDNA lineages found in southern Arabia have persisted in the region since the end of the Last Ice Age. Am J Phys Anthropol 149:291-298, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 08/2012; 149(2):291-8. · 2.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human populations, along with those of many other species, are thought to have contracted into a number of refuge areas at the height of the last Ice Age. European populations are believed to be, to a large extent, the descendants of the inhabitants of these refugia, and some extant mtDNA lineages can be traced to refugia in Franco-Cantabria (haplogroups H1, H3, V, and U5b1), the Italian Peninsula (U5b3), and the East European Plain (U4 and U5a). Parts of the Near East, such as the Levant, were also continuously inhabited throughout the Last Glacial Maximum, but unlike western and eastern Europe, no archaeological or genetic evidence for Late Glacial expansions into Europe from the Near East has hitherto been discovered. Here we report, on the basis of an enlarged whole-genome mitochondrial database, that a substantial, perhaps predominant, signal from mitochondrial haplogroups J and T, previously thought to have spread primarily from the Near East into Europe with the Neolithic population, may in fact reflect dispersals during the Late Glacial period, ∼19-12 thousand years (ka) ago.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 05/2012; 90(5):915-24. · 11.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Archaeological and genetic evidence concerning the time and mode of wild horse (Equus ferus) domestication is still debated. High levels of genetic diversity in horse mtDNA have been detected when analyzing the control region; recurrent mutations, however, tend to blur the structure of the phylogenetic tree. Here, we brought the horse mtDNA phylogeny to the highest level of molecular resolution by analyzing 83 mitochondrial genomes from modern horses across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. Our data reveal 18 major haplogroups (A-R) with radiation times that are mostly confined to the Neolithic and later periods and place the root of the phylogeny corresponding to the Ancestral Mare Mitogenome at ~130-160 thousand years ago. All haplogroups were detected in modern horses from Asia, but F was only found in E. przewalskii--the only remaining wild horse. Therefore, a wide range of matrilineal lineages from the extinct E. ferus underwent domestication in the Eurasian steppes during the Eneolithic period and were transmitted to modern E. caballus breeds. Importantly, now that the major horse haplogroups have been defined, each with diagnostic mutational motifs (in both the coding and control regions), these haplotypes could be easily used to (i) classify well-preserved ancient remains, (ii) (re)assess the haplogroup variation of modern breeds, including Thoroughbreds, and (iii) evaluate the possible role of mtDNA backgrounds in racehorse performance.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2012; 109(7):2449-54. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A major unanswered question regarding the dispersal of modern humans around the world concerns the geographical site of the first human steps outside of Africa. The "southern coastal route" model predicts that the early stages of the dispersal took place when people crossed the Red Sea to southern Arabia, but genetic evidence has hitherto been tenuous. We have addressed this question by analyzing the three minor west-Eurasian haplogroups, N1, N2, and X. These lineages branch directly from the first non-African founder node, the root of haplogroup N, and coalesce to the time of the first successful movement of modern humans out of Africa, ∼60 thousand years (ka) ago. We sequenced complete mtDNA genomes from 85 Southwest Asian samples carrying these haplogroups and compared them with a database of 300 European examples. The results show that these minor haplogroups have a relict distribution that suggests an ancient ancestry within the Arabian Peninsula, and they most likely spread from the Gulf Oasis region toward the Near East and Europe during the pluvial period 55-24 ka ago. This pattern suggests that Arabia was indeed the first staging post in the spread of modern humans around the world.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 02/2012; 90(2):347-55. · 11.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The presence of somatic mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations in cancer cells has been interpreted in controversial ways, ranging from random neutral accumulation of mutations, to positive selection for high pathogenicity, or conversely to purifying selection against high pathogenicity variants as occurs at the population level. Here we evaluated the predicted pathogenicity of somatic mtDNA mutations described in cancer and compare these to the distribution of variations observed in the global human population and all possible protein variations that could occur in human mtDNA. We focus on oncocytic tumors, which are clearly associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. The protein variant pathogenicity was predicted using two computational methods, MutPred and SNPs&GO. The pathogenicity score of the somatic mtDNA variants were significantly higher in oncocytic tumors compared to non-oncocytic tumors. Variations in subunits of Complex I of the electron transfer chain were significantly more common in tumors with the oncocytic phenotype, while variations in Complex V subunits were significantly more common in non-oncocytic tumors. Our results show that the somatic mtDNA mutations reported over all tumors are indistinguishable from a random selection from the set of all possible amino acid variations, and have therefore escaped the effects of purifying selection that act strongly at the population level. We show that the pathogenicity of somatic mtDNA mutations is a determining factor for the oncocytic phenotype. The opposite associations of the Complex I and Complex V variants with the oncocytic and non-oncocytic tumors implies that low mitochondrial membrane potential may play an important role in determining the oncocytic phenotype.
    BMC Cancer 02/2012; 12:53. · 3.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The forensic genetics field is generating extensive population data on polymorphism of short tandem repeats (STR) markers in globally distributed samples. In this study we explored and quantified the informative power of these datasets to address issues related to human evolution and diversity, by using two online resources: an allele frequency dataset representing 141 populations summing up to almost 26 thousand individuals; a genotype dataset consisting of 42 populations and more than 11 thousand individuals. We show that the genetic relationships between populations based on forensic STRs are best explained by geography, as observed when analysing other worldwide datasets generated specifically to study human diversity. However, the global level of genetic differentiation between populations (as measured by a fixation index) is about half the value estimated with those other datasets, which contain a much higher number of markers but much less individuals. We suggest that the main factor explaining this difference is an ascertainment bias in forensics data resulting from the choice of markers for individual identification. We show that this choice results in average low variance of heterozygosity across world regions, and hence in low differentiation among populations. Thus, the forensic genetic markers currently produced for the purpose of individual assignment and identification allow the detection of the patterns of neutral genetic structure that characterize the human population but they do underestimate the levels of this genetic structure compared to the datasets of STRs (or other kinds of markers) generated specifically to study the diversity of human populations.
    PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(11):e49666. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Although fossil remains show that anatomically modern humans dispersed out of Africa into the Near East ∼100 to 130 ka, genetic evidence from extant populations has suggested that non-Africans descend primarily from a single successful later migration. Within the human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tree, haplogroup L3 encompasses not only many sub-Saharan Africans but also all ancient non-African lineages, and its age therefore provides an upper bound for the dispersal out of Africa. An analysis of 369 complete African L3 sequences places this maximum at ∼70 ka, virtually ruling out a successful exit before 74 ka, the date of the Toba volcanic supereruption in Sumatra. The similarity of the age of L3 to its two non-African daughter haplogroups, M and N, suggests that the same process was likely responsible for both the L3 expansion in Eastern Africa and the dispersal of a small group of modern humans out of Africa to settle the rest of the world. The timing of the expansion of L3 suggests a link to improved climatic conditions after ∼70 ka in Eastern and Central Africa rather than to symbolically mediated behavior, which evidently arose considerably earlier. The L3 mtDNA pool within Africa suggests a migration from Eastern Africa to Central Africa ∼60 to 35 ka and major migrations in the immediate postglacial again linked to climate. The largest population size increase seen in the L3 data is 3-4 ka in Central Africa, corresponding to Bantu expansions, leading diverse L3 lineages to spread into Eastern and Southern Africa in the last 3-2 ka.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 11/2011; 29(3):915-27. · 10.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Because of their sensitivity and high level of discrimination, short tandem repeat (STR) maker systems are currently the method of choice in routine forensic casework and data banking, usually in multiplexes up to 15-17 loci. Constraints related to sample amount and quality, frequently encountered in forensic casework, will not allow to change this picture in the near future, notwithstanding the technological developments. In this study, we present a free online calculator named PopAffiliator ( http://cracs.fc.up.pt/popaffiliator ) for individual population affiliation in the three main population groups, Eurasian, East Asian and sub-Saharan African, based on genotype profiles for the common set of STRs used in forensics. This calculator performs affiliation based on a model constructed using machine learning techniques. The model was constructed using a data set of approximately fifteen thousand individuals collected for this work. The accuracy of individual population affiliation is approximately 86%, showing that the common set of STRs routinely used in forensics provide a considerable amount of information for population assignment, in addition to being excellent for individual identification.
    Deutsche Zeitschrift für die Gesamte Gerichtliche Medizin 09/2011; 125(5):629-36. · 2.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Archaeological studies have revealed cultural connections between the two sides of the Red Sea dating to prehistory. The issue has still not been properly addressed, however, by archaeogenetics. We focus our attention here on the mitochondrial haplogroup HV1 that is present in both the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. The internal variation of 38 complete mitochondrial DNA sequences (20 of them presented here for the first time) affiliated into this haplogroup testify to its emergence during the late glacial maximum, most probably in the Near East, with subsequent dispersion via population expansions when climatic conditions improved. Detailed phylogeography of HV1 sequences shows that more recent demographic upheavals likely contributed to their spread from West Arabia to East Africa, a finding concordant with archaeological records suggesting intensive maritime trade in the Red Sea from the sixth millennium BC onwards. Closer genetic exchanges are apparent between the Horn of Africa and Yemen, while Egyptian HV1 haplotypes seem to be more similar to the Near Eastern ones.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 06/2011; 145(4):592-8. · 2.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Traditional pastoralists survive in few places in the world. They can still be encountered in the African Sahel, where annual alternations of dry and wet seasons force them to continual mobility. Little is known about the genetic structure of these populations. We present here the population distribution of 312 hypervariable segment I mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and 364 Y-short tandem repeat haplotypes in both farmer and pastoralist groups from the Lake Chad Basin and the West African Sahel. We show that the majority of pastoral populations (represented in the African Sahel by the Fulani nomads) fail to show significant departure from neutrality for mtDNA as evidenced by Fu's Fs statistics and exhibit lower levels of intrapopulation diversity measures for mtDNA when contrasted with farmers. These differences were not observed for the Y chromosome. Furthermore, analyses of molecular variance and population distributions of the mtDNA haplotypes show more heterogeneity in the sedentary groups than in the pastoralists. On the other hand, pastoralists retain a signature of a wide phylogenetic distance contributing to their male gene pool, whereas in at least some of the farmer populations, a founder effect and/or drift might have led to the presence of a single major lineage. Interestingly, these observations are in contrast with those recorded in Central Asia, where similar comparisons of farmer and pastoral groups have recently been carried out. We can conclude that in Africa, there have been no substantial mating exchanges between the Fulani pastoralists coming to the Lake Chad Basin from the West African Sahel and their farmer neighbors. At the same time, we suggest that the emergence of pastoralism might be an earlier and/or a demographically more important event than the introduction of sedentary agriculture, at least in this part of Africa.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 03/2011; 28(9):2491-500. · 10.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We used detailed phylogenetic trees for human mtDNA, combined with pathogenicity predictions for each amino acid change, to evaluate selection on mtDNA-encoded protein variants. Protein variants with high pathogenicity scores were significantly rarer in the older branches of the tree. Variants that have formed and survived multiple times in the human phylogenetics tree had significantly lower pathogenicity scores than those that only appear once in the tree. We compared the distribution of pathogenicity scores observed on the human phylogenetic tree to the distribution of all possible protein variations to define a measure of the effect of selection on these protein variations. The measured effect of selection increased exponentially with increasing pathogenicity score. We found no measurable difference in this measure of purifying selection in mtDNA across the global population, represented by the macrohaplogroups L, M, and N. We provide a list of all possible single amino acid variations for the human mtDNA-encoded proteins with their predicted pathogenicity scores and our measured selection effect as a tool for assessing novel protein variations that are often reported in patients with mitochondrial disease of unknown origin or for assessing somatic mutations acquired through aging or detected in tumors.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 03/2011; 88(4):433-9. · 11.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Widespread interest in the first successful Out of Africa dispersal of modern humans ∼60-80 thousand years ago via a southern migration route has overshadowed the study of later periods of South Arabian prehistory. In this work, we show that the post-Last Glacial Maximum period of the past 20,000 years, during which climatic conditions were becoming more hospitable, has been a significant time in the formation of the extant genetic composition and population structure of this region. This conclusion is supported by the internal diversification displayed in the highly resolved phylogenetic tree of 89 whole mitochondrial genomes (71 being newly presented here) for haplogroup R0a-the most frequent and widespread haplogroup in Arabia. Additionally, two geographically specific clades (R0a1a1a and R0a2f1) have been identified in non-Arabic speaking peoples such as the Soqotri and Mahri living in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula where a past refugium was identified by independent archaeological studies. Estimates of time to the most recent common ancestor of these lineages match the earliest archaeological evidence for seafaring activity in the peninsula in the sixth millennium BC.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 01/2011; 28(1):71-8. · 10.35 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
425.28 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1996–2013
    • University of Porto
      • • Instituto de Patologia e Imunologia Molecular da Universidade do Porto
      • • Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology (IPATIMUP)
      • • Faculdade de Ciências
      Porto, Distrito do Porto, Portugal
  • 2012
    • Sultan Qaboos University
      • Department of Biochemistry
      Muscat, Muhafazat Masqat, Oman
    • Vanderbilt University
      • Center for Human Genetics Research (CHGR)
      Nashville, MI, United States
  • 2011
    • Charles University in Prague
      • Katedra antropologie a genetiky člověka
      Praha, Hlavni mesto Praha, Czech Republic
  • 2008–2011
    • Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
      Praha, Praha, Czech Republic
  • 2010
    • Faculté des Sciences de Tunis
      Tunis-Ville, Tūnis, Tunisia
    • Université Chouaib Doukkali
      • Faculty of Science
      Mazagan, Doukkala-Abda, Morocco
  • 2005
    • Instituto Nacional de Toxicología y Ciencias Forenses
      Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 2002–2004
    • Universidade da Madeira
      • Centro de Estudos da Macaronésia
      Funchal, Regiao Autonoma da Madeira, Portugal
  • 2001
    • Sapienza University of Rome
      Roma, Latium, Italy