Sarah A Tishkoff

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

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Publications (90)1042.54 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Africa is the birthplace of anatomically modern humans, and is the geographic origin of human migration across the globe within the last 100,000 years. The history of African populations has consisted of a number of demographic events that have influenced patterns of genetic and phenotypic variation across the continent. With the increasing amount of genomic data and corresponding developments in computational methods, researchers are able to explore long-standing evolutionary questions, expanding our understanding of human history within and outside of Africa. This review will summarize some of the recent findings regarding African demographic history, including the African Diaspora, and will briefly explore their implications for disease susceptibility in populations of African descent.
    Current Opinion in Genetics & Development 10/2014; 29:120-132. · 8.57 Impact Factor
  • Joseph Lachance, Sarah A Tishkoff
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    ABSTRACT: Gene conversion results in the nonreciprocal transfer of genetic information between two recombining sequences, and there is evidence that this process is biased toward G and C alleles. However, the strength of GC-biased gene conversion (gBGC) in human populations and its effects on hereditary disease have yet to be assessed on a genomic scale. Using high-coverage whole-genome sequences of African hunter-gatherers, agricultural populations, and primate outgroups, we quantified the effects of GC-biased gene conversion on population genomic data sets. We find that genetic distances (FST and population branch statistics) are modified by gBGC. In addition, the site frequency spectrum is left-shifted when ancestral alleles are favored by gBGC and right-shifted when derived alleles are favored by gBGC. Allele frequency shifts due to gBGC mimic the effects of natural selection. As expected, these effects are strongest in high-recombination regions of the human genome. By comparing the relative rates of fixation of unbiased and biased sites, the strength of gene conversion was estimated to be on the order of Nb ≈ 0.05 to 0.09. We also find that derived alleles favored by gBGC are much more likely to be homozygous than derived alleles at unbiased SNPs (+42.2% to 62.8%). This results in a curse of the converted, whereby gBGC causes substantial increases in hereditary disease risks. Taken together, our findings reveal that GC-biased gene conversion has important population genetic and public health implications.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 10/2014; 95(4):408-20. · 10.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background MiRNA expression profiling is being actively investigated as a clinical biomarker and diagnostic tool to detect multiple cancer types and stages as well as other complex diseases. Initial investigations, however, have not comprehensively taken into account genetic variability affecting miRNA expression and/or function in populations of different ethnic backgrounds. Therefore, more complete surveys of miRNA genetic variability are needed to assess global patterns of miRNA variation within and between diverse human populations and their effect on clinically relevant miRNA genes. Methods Genetic variation in 1524 miRNA genes was examined using whole genome sequencing (60x coverage) in a panel of 69 unrelated individuals from 14 global populations, including European, Asian and African populations. Results We identified 33 previously undescribed miRNA variants, and 31 miRNA containing variants that are globally population-differentiated in frequency between African and non-African populations (PD-miRNA). The top 1% of PD-miRNA were significantly enriched for regulation of genes involved in glucose/insulin metabolism and cell division (p < 10-7), most significantly the mitosis pathway, which is strongly linked to cancer onset. Overall, we identify 7 PD-miRNAs that are currently implicated as cancer biomarkers or diagnostics: hsa-mir-202, hsa-mir-423, hsa-mir-196a-2, hsa-mir-520h, hsa-mir-647, hsa-mir-943, and hsa-mir-1908. Notably, hsa-mir-202, a potential breast cancer biomarker, was found to show significantly high allele frequency differentiation at SNP rs12355840, which is known to affect miRNA expression levels in vivo and subsequently breast cancer mortality. Conclusion MiRNA expression profiles represent a promising new category of disease biomarkers. However, population specific genetic variation can affect the prevalence and baseline expression of these miRNAs in diverse populations. Consequently, miRNA genetic and expression level variation among ethnic groups may be contributing in part to health disparities observed in multiple forms of cancer, specifically breast cancer, and will be an essential consideration when assessing the utility of miRNA biomarkers for the clinic.
    BMC Medical Genomics 08/2014; 7:53. · 3.91 Impact Factor
  • Felicia Gomez, Jibril Hirbo, Sarah A Tishkoff
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    ABSTRACT: Because modern humans originated in Africa and have adapted to diverse environments, African populations have high levels of genetic and phenotypic diversity. Thus, genomic studies of diverse African ethnic groups are essential for understanding human evolutionary history and how this leads to differential disease risk in all humans. Comparative studies of genetic diversity within and between African ethnic groups creates an opportunity to reconstruct some of the earliest events in human population history and are useful for identifying patterns of genetic variation that have been influenced by recent natural selection. Here we describe what is currently known about genetic variation and evolutionary history of diverse African ethnic groups. We also describe examples of recent natural selection in African genomes and how these data are informative for understanding the frequency of many genetic traits, including those that cause disease susceptibility in African populations and populations of recent African descent.
    Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology 07/2014; 6(7). · 8.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bitter taste perception, mediated by receptors encoded by the TAS2R loci, has important roles in human health and nutrition. Prior studies have demonstrated that nonsynonymous variation at site 516 in the coding exon of TAS2R16, a bitter taste receptor gene on chromosome 7, has been subject to positive selection and is strongly correlated with differences in sensitivity to salicin, a bitter anti-inflammatory compound, in human populations. However, a recent study suggested that the derived G-allele at rs702424 in the TAS2R16 promoter has also been the target of recent selection and may have an additional effect on the levels of salicin bitter taste perception. Here, we examined alleles at rs702424 for signatures of selection using Extended Haplotype Homozygosity (EHH) and FST statistics in diverse populations from West Central, Central and East Africa. We also performed a genotype-phenotype analysis of salicin sensitivity in a subset of 135 individuals from East Africa. Based on our data, we did not find evidence for positive selection at rs702424 in African populations, suggesting that nucleotide position 516 is likely the site under selection at TAS2R16. Moreover, we did not detect a significant association between rs702424 alleles and salicin bitter taste recognition, implying that this site does not contribute to salicin phenotypic variance. Overall, this study of African diversity provides further information regarding the genetic architecture and evolutionary history of a biologically-relevant trait in humans.Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication, 1 May 2014; doi:10.1038/jhg.2014.29.
    Journal of Human Genetics 05/2014; · 2.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In humans, the ability to digest lactose, the sugar in milk, declines after weaning because of decreasing levels of the enzyme lactase-phlorizin hydrolase, encoded by LCT. However, some individuals maintain high enzyme amounts and are able to digest lactose into adulthood (i.e., they have the lactase-persistence [LP] trait). It is thought that selection has played a major role in maintaining this genetically determined phenotypic trait in different human populations that practice pastoralism. To identify variants associated with the LP trait and to study its evolutionary history in Africa, we sequenced MCM6 introns 9 and 13 and ∼2 kb of the LCT promoter region in 819 individuals from 63 African populations and in 154 non-Africans from nine populations. We also genotyped four microsatellites in an ∼198 kb region in a subset of 252 individuals to reconstruct the origin and spread of LP-associated variants in Africa. Additionally, we examined the association between LP and genetic variability at candidate regulatory regions in 513 individuals from eastern Africa. Our analyses confirmed the association between the LP trait and three common variants in intron 13 (C-14010, G-13907, and G-13915). Furthermore, we identified two additional LP-associated SNPs in intron 13 and the promoter region (G-12962 and T-956, respectively). Using neutrality tests based on the allele frequency spectrum and long-range linkage disequilibrium, we detected strong signatures of recent positive selection in eastern African populations and the Fulani from central Africa. In addition, haplotype analysis supported an eastern African origin of the C-14010 LP-associated mutation in southern Africa.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 03/2014; · 11.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Analysis of ancient DNA can reveal historical events that are difficult to discern through study of present-day individuals. To investigate European population history around the time of the agricultural transition, we sequenced complete genomes from a ~7,500 year old early farmer from the Linearbandkeramik (LBK) culture from Stuttgart in Germany and an ~8,000 year old hunter-gatherer from the Loschbour rock shelter in Luxembourg. We also generated data from seven ~8,000 year old hunter-gatherers from Motala in Sweden. We compared these genomes and published ancient DNA to new data from 2,196 samples from 185 diverse populations to show that at least three ancestral groups contributed to present-day Europeans. The first are Ancient North Eurasians (ANE), who are more closely related to Upper Paleolithic Siberians than to any present-day population. The second are West European Hunter-Gatherers (WHG), related to the Loschbour individual, who contributed to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners. The third are Early European Farmers (EEF), related to the Stuttgart individual, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harbored WHG-related ancestry. We model the deep relationships of these populations and show that about ~44% of the ancestry of EEF derived from a basal Eurasian lineage that split prior to the separation of other non-Africans.
    Nature. 12/2013; 513(7518).
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    ABSTRACT: Recent efforts have attempted to describe the population structure of common chimpanzee, focusing on four subspecies: Pan troglodytes verus, P. t. ellioti, P. t. troglodytes, and P. t. schweinfurthii. However, few studies have pursued the effects of natural selection in shaping their response to pathogens and reproduction. Whey acidic protein (WAP) four-disulfide core domain (WFDC) genes and neighboring semenogelin (SEMG) genes encode proteins with combined roles in immunity and fertility. They display a strikingly high rate of amino acid replacement (dN/dS), indicative of adaptive pressures during primate evolution. In human populations, three signals of selection at the WFDC locus were described, possibly influencing the proteolytic profile and antimicrobial activities of the male reproductive tract. To evaluate the patterns of genomic variation and selection at the WFDC locus in chimpanzees, we sequenced 17 WFDC genes and 47 autosomal pseudogenes in 68 chimpanzees (15 P. t. troglodytes, 22 P. t. verus, and 31 P. t. ellioti). We found a clear differentiation of P. t. verus and estimated the divergence of P. t. troglodytes and P. t. ellioti subspecies in 0.173 Myr; further, at the WFDC locus we identified a signature of strong selective constraints common to the three subspecies in WFDC6—a recent paralog of the epididymal protease inhibitor EPPIN. Overall, chimpanzees and humans do not display similar footprints of selection across the WFDC locus, possibly due to different selective pressures between the two species related to immune response and reproductive biology.
    Genome Biology and Evolution 12/2013; 5(12):2512. · 4.53 Impact Factor
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  • Joseph Lachance, Sarah A Tishkoff
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    ABSTRACT: Recent advances in genotyping technologies have facilitated genome-wide scans for natural selection. Identification of targets of natural selection will shed light on processes of human adaptation and evolution and could be important for identifying variation that influences both normal human phenotypic variation as well as disease susceptibility. Here we focus on studies of natural selection in modern humans who originated ~200,000 years go in Africa and migrated across the globe ~50,000 - 100,000 years ago. Movement into new environments, as well as changes in culture and technology including plant and animal domestication, resulted in local adaptation to diverse environments. We summarize statistical approaches for detecting targets of natural selection and for distinguishing the effects of demographic history from natural selection. On a genome-wide scale, immune-related genes appear to be major targets of positive selection. Genes associated with reproduction and fertility also appear to be fast evolving. Additional examples of recent human adaptation include genes associated with lactase persistence, eccrine glands, and response to hypoxia. Lastly, we emphasize the need to supplement scans of selection with functional studies to demonstrate the physiologic impact of candidate loci.
    Annual Review of Ecology Evolution and Systematics 11/2013; 44:123-143. · 10.98 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bitter taste perception influences human nutrition and health, and the genetic variation underlying this trait may play a role in disease susceptibility. To better understand the genetic architecture and patterns of phenotypic variability of bitter taste perception, we sequenced a 996 bp region, encompassing the coding exon of TAS2R16, a bitter taste receptor gene, in 595 individuals from 74 African populations, and in 94 non-Africans from 11 populations. We also performed genotype-phenotype association analyses of threshold levels of sensitivity to salicin, a bitter anti-inflammatory compound, in 296 individuals from Central and East Africa. In addition, we characterized TAS2R16 mutants in vitro to investigate the effects of polymorphic loci identified at this locus on receptor function. Here, we report striking signatures of positive selection, including significant Fay and Wu's H statistics predominantly in East Africa, indicating strong local adaptation, and greater genetic structure among African populations than expected under neutrality. Furthermore, we observed a "star-like" phylogeny for haplotypes with the derived allele at polymorphic site 516 associated with increased bitter taste perception that is consistent with a model of selection for "high-sensitivity" variation. In contrast, haplotypes carrying the "low-sensitivity" ancestral allele at site 516 showed evidence of strong purifying selection. We also demonstrated, for the first time, the functional effect of nonsynonymous variation at site 516 on salicin phenotypic variance in vivo in diverse Africans, and showed that most other nonsynonymous substitutions have weak or no effect on cell surface expression in vitro, suggesting that one main polymorphism at TAS2R16 influences salicin recognition. Additionally, we detected geographic differences in levels of bitter taste perception in Africa not previously reported, and infer an East African origin for high salicin sensitivity in human populations.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 10/2013; · 14.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent studies have found evidence of introgression from Neanderthals into modern humans outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Given the geographic range of Neanderthals, the findings have been interpreted as evidence of gene exchange between Neanderthals and the modern humans descended from the Out-of-Africa (OOA) migration. Here we examine an alternative interpretation in which the introgression occurred earlier within Africa, between ancestors or relatives of Neanderthals and a subset of African modern humans who were the ancestors of those involved in the OOA migration. Under the alternative model, if the population structure among present-day Africans predates the OOA migration, we might find some African populations show a signal of Neanderthal introgression while others do not. To test this alternative model we compiled a whole-genome data set including 38 sub-Saharan Africans from eight populations and 25 non-African individuals from five populations. We assessed differences in the amount of Neanderthal-like SNP alleles among these populations and observed up to 1.5% difference in the number of Neanderthal-like alleles among African populations. Further analyses suggest that these differences are likely due to recent non-African admixture in these populations. After accounting for recent non-African admixture, our results do not support the alternative model of older (e.g., >100 kya) admixture between modern human and Neanderthal-like hominid within Africa.
    Genome Biology and Evolution 10/2013; · 4.53 Impact Factor
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    Laura B Scheinfeldt, Sarah A Tishkoff
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    ABSTRACT: The recent availability of genomic data has spurred many genome-wide studies of human adaptation in different populations worldwide. Such studies have provided insights into novel candidate genes and pathways that are putatively involved in adaptation to different environments, diets and disease prevalence. However, much work is needed to translate these results into candidate adaptive variants that are biologically interpretable. In this Review, we discuss methods that may help to identify true biological signals of selection and studies that incorporate complementary phenotypic and functional data. We conclude with recommendations for future studies that focus on opportunities to use integrative genomics methodologies in human adaptation studies.
    Nature Reviews Genetics 09/2013; 14(10):692-702. · 39.79 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Only a few studies, primarily limited to small samples, have examined the relationship between leukocyte telomere length (LTL) data generated by Southern blots, expressed in kilobases, versus quantitative PCR data, expressed in the telomere product/a single gene product (T/S). In the present study, we compared LTL data generated by the two methods in 681 elderly participants (50% African Americans, 50% of European origin, 49.2% women, mean age 73.7±2.9 years) in the Health Aging and Body Composition Study. The correlation between the data generated by the two methods was modest (R(2) = .27). Both methods captured the age effect on LTL and the longer LTL in women than in men. However, only the Southern blot method showed a significantly longer LTL in African Americans than in European decent individuals, which might be attributed to the larger measurement error of the quantitative PCR-based method than the Southern blots.
    The Journals of Gerontology Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 08/2013; · 4.31 Impact Factor
  • Joseph Lachance, Sarah A Tishkoff
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    ABSTRACT: Whole genome sequencing and SNP genotyping arrays can paint strikingly different pictures of demographic history and natural selection. This is because genotyping arrays contain biased sets of pre-ascertained SNPs. In this short review, we use comparisons between high-coverage whole genome sequences of African hunter-gatherers and data from genotyping arrays to highlight how SNP ascertainment bias distorts population genetic inferences. Sample sizes and the populations in which SNPs are discovered affect the characteristics of observed variants. We find that SNPs on genotyping arrays tend to be older and present in multiple populations. In addition, genotyping arrays cause allele frequency distributions to be shifted towards intermediate frequency alleles, and estimates of linkage disequilibrium are modified. Since population genetic analyses depend on allele frequencies, it is imperative that researchers are aware of the effects of SNP ascertainment bias. With this in mind, we describe multiple ways to correct for SNP ascertainment bias.
    BioEssays 07/2013; · 4.84 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Most great ape genetic variation remains uncharacterized; however, its study is critical for understanding population history, recombination, selection and susceptibility to disease. Here we sequence to high coverage a total of 79 wild- and captive-born individuals representing all six great ape species and seven subspecies and report 88.8 million single nucleotide polymorphisms. Our analysis provides support for genetically distinct populations within each species, signals of gene flow, and the split of common chimpanzees into two distinct groups: Nigeria-Cameroon/western and central/eastern populations. We find extensive inbreeding in almost all wild populations, with eastern gorillas being the most extreme. Inferred effective population sizes have varied radically over time in different lineages and this appears to have a profound effect on the genetic diversity at, or close to, genes in almost all species. We discover and assign 1,982 loss-of-function variants throughout the human and great ape lineages, determining that the rate of gene loss has not been different in the human branch compared to other internal branches in the great ape phylogeny. This comprehensive catalogue of great ape genome diversity provides a framework for understanding evolution and a resource for more effective management of wild and captive great ape populations.
    Nature 07/2013; · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Disease susceptibility can arise as a consequence of adaptation to infectious disease. Recent findings have suggested that higher rates of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in individuals with recent African ancestry might be attributed to two risk alleles (G1 and G2) at the serum-resistance-associated (SRA)-interacting-domain-encoding region of APOL1. These two alleles appear to have arisen adaptively, possibly as a result of their protective effects against human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), or African sleeping sickness. In order to explore the distribution of potential functional variation at APOL1, we studied nucleotide variation in 187 individuals across ten geographically and genetically diverse African ethnic groups with exposure to two Trypanosoma brucei subspecies that cause HAT. We observed unusually high levels of nonsynonymous polymorphism in the regions encoding the functional domains that are required for lysing parasites. Whereas allele frequencies of G2 were similar across all populations (3%-8%), the G1 allele was only common in the Yoruba (39%). Additionally, we identified a haplotype (termed G3) that contains a nonsynonymous change at the membrane-addressing-domain-encoding region of APOL1 and is present in all populations except for the Yoruba. Analyses of long-range patterns of linkage disequilibrium indicate evidence of recent selection acting on the G3 haplotype in Fulani from Cameroon. Our results indicate that the G1 and G2 variants in APOL1 are geographically restricted and that there might be other functional variants that could play a role in HAT resistance and CKD risk in African populations.
    The American Journal of Human Genetics 06/2013; · 11.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Malaria is one of the strongest selective pressures in recent human evolution. African populations have been and continue to be at risk for malarial infections. However, few studies have re-sequenced malaria susceptibility loci across geographically and genetically diverse groups in Africa. We examined nucleotide diversity at Intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), a malaria susceptibility candidate locus, in a number of human populations with a specific focus on diverse African ethnic groups. We used tests of neutrality to assess whether natural selection has impacted this locus and tested whether SNP variation at ICAM-1 is correlated with malaria endemicity. We observe differing patterns of nucleotide and haplotype variation in global populations and higher levels of diversity in Africa. Although we do not observe a deviation from neutrality based on the allele frequency distribution, we do observe several alleles at ICAM-1, including the ICAM-1 (Kilifi) allele, that are correlated with malaria endemicity. We show that the ICAM-1 (Kilifi) allele, which is common in Africa and Asia, exists on distinct haplotype backgrounds and is likely to have arisen more recently in Asia. Our results suggest that correlation analyses of allele frequencies and malaria endemicity may be useful for identifying candidate functional variants that play a role in malaria resistance and susceptibility.
    Human Genetics 04/2013; 132(9). · 4.52 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

6k Citations
1,042.54 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2008–2014
    • University of Pennsylvania
      • • Department of Genetics
      • • Department of Biology
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2013
    • University of Porto
      Oporto, Porto, Portugal
    • Coriell Institute for Medical Research
      Camden, New Jersey, United States
  • 2011
    • Vanderbilt University
      • Center for Human Genetics Research (CHGR)
      Nashville, MI, United States
  • 2001–2011
    • University of Maryland, College Park
      • Department of Biology
      College Park, MD, United States
  • 2010
    • Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
      • Department of Genetics
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • 2007
    • Stanford University
      • Department of Biology
      Palo Alto, California, United States
    • George Washington University
      • Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology
      Washington, Washington, D.C., United States
  • 2004
    • Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics
      Lefkoşa, Lefkosia, Cyprus
  • 1999–2000
    • Pennsylvania State University
      • Department of Biology
      University Park, Maryland, United States
  • 1994–2000
    • Yale University
      • Department of Genetics
      New Haven, CT, United States
  • 1998
    • Yale-New Haven Hospital
      New Haven, Connecticut, United States