staff

Da Di

Senior Research Assistant in Anthropology & Immunogenetics

  • T: +41 22 379 69 64
  • office 4-414 (Sciences II)
  • Computer simulation of human leukocyte antigen genes supports two main routes of colonization by human populations in East Asia. BMC Evol. Biol. 2015 ;15():240. 10.1186/s12862-015-0512-0. 10.1186/s12862-015-0512-0. PMC4632674.

    abstract

    Recent genetic studies have suggested that the colonization of East Asia by modern humans was more complex than a single origin from the South, and that a genetic contribution via a Northern route was probably quite substantial.

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  • Correction to: "Forward-in-Time, Spatially Explicit Modeling Software to Simulate Genetic Lineages Under Selection". Evol. Bioinform. Online 2015 ;11(Suppl 2):69. 10.4137/EBO.S39777. ebo-suppl.2-2015-069. PMC4939849.

    abstract

    [This corrects the article DOI: 10.4137/EBO.S33488.].

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  • Forward-in-Time, Spatially Explicit Modeling Software to Simulate Genetic Lineages Under Selection. Evol. Bioinform. Online 2015 ;11(Suppl 2):27-39. 10.4137/EBO.S33488. ebo-suppl.2-2015-027. PMC4768942.

    abstract

    SELECTOR is a software package for studying the evolution of multiallelic genes under balancing or positive selection while simulating complex evolutionary scenarios that integrate demographic growth and migration in a spatially explicit population framework. Parameters can be varied both in space and time to account for geographical, environmental, and cultural heterogeneity. SELECTOR can be used within an approximate Bayesian computation estimation framework. We first describe the principles of SELECTOR and validate the algorithms by comparing its outputs for simple models with theoretical expectations. Then, we show how it can be used to investigate genetic differentiation of loci under balancing selection in interconnected demes with spatially heterogeneous gene flow. We identify situations in which balancing selection reduces genetic differentiation between population groups compared with neutrality and explain conflicting outcomes observed for human leukocyte antigen loci. These results and three previously published applications demonstrate that SELECTOR is efficient and robust for building insight into human settlement history and evolution.

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  • HLA variation reveals genetic continuity rather than population group structure in East Asia. Immunogenetics 2014 Mar;66(3):153-60. 10.1007/s00251-014-0757-6.

    abstract

    Genetic differences between Northeast Asian (NEA) and Southeast Asian (SEA) populations have been observed in numerous studies. At the among-population level, despite a clear north-south differentiation observed for many genetic markers, debates were led between abrupt differences and a continuous pattern. At the within-population level, whether NEA or SEA populations have higher genetic diversity is also highly controversial. In this study, we analyzed a large set of HLA data from East Asia in order to map the genetic variation among and within populations in this continent and to clarify the distribution pattern of HLA lineages and alleles. We observed a genetic differentiation between NEA and SEA populations following a continuous pattern from north to south, and we show a significant and continuous decrease of HLA diversity by the same direction. This continuity is shaped by clinal distributions of many HLA lineages and alleles with increasing or decreasing frequencies along the latitude. These results bring new evidence in favor of the "overlapping model" proposed previously for East Asian peopling history, whereby modern humans migrated eastward from western Eurasia via two independent routes along each side of the Himalayas and, later, overlapped in East Asia across open land areas. Our study strongly suggests that intensive gene flow between NEA and SEA populations occurred and shaped the latitude-related continuous pattern of genetic variation and the peculiar HLA lineage and allele distributions observed in this continent. Probably for a very long period, the exact duration of these events remains to be estimated.

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  • Challenging views on the peopling history of East Asia: the story according to HLA markers. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 2011 May;145(1):81-96. 10.1002/ajpa.21470.

    abstract

    The peopling of East Asia by the first modern humans is strongly debated from a genetic point of view. A north-south genetic differentiation observed in this geographic area suggests different hypotheses on the origin of Northern East Asian (NEA) and Southern East Asian (SEA) populations. In this study, the highly polymorphic HLA markers were used to investigate East Asian genetic diversity. Our database covers a total of about 127,000 individuals belonging to 84 distinct Asian populations tested for HLA-A, -B, -C, -DPB1, and/or -DRB1 alleles. Many Chinese populations are represented, which have been sampled in the last 30 years but rarely taken into account in international research due to their data published in Chinese. By using different statistical methods, we found a significant correlation between genetics and geography and relevant genetic clines in East Asia. Additionally, HLA alleles appear to be unevenly distributed: some alleles observed in NEA populations are widespread at the global level, while some alleles observed in SEA populations are virtually unique in Asia. The HLA genetic variation in East Asia is also characterized by a decrease of diversity from north to south, although a reverse pattern appears when one only focuses on alleles restricted to Asia. These results reflect a more complex migration history than that illustrated by the "southern-origin" hypothesis, as genetic contribution of ancient human migrations through a northern route has probably been quite substantial. We thus suggest a new overlapping model where northward and southward opposite migrations occurring at different periods overlapped.

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  • Immunogenetics as a tool in anthropological studies. Immunology 2011 Jun;133(2):143-64. 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2011.03438.x. PMC3088978.

    abstract

    The genes coding for the main molecules involved in the human immune system--immunoglobulins, human leucocyte antigen (HLA) molecules and killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR)--exhibit a very high level of polymorphism that reveals remarkable frequency variation in human populations. 'Genetic marker' (GM) allotypes located in the constant domains of IgG antibodies have been studied for over 40 years through serological typing, leading to the identification of a variety of GM haplotypes whose frequencies vary sharply from one geographic region to another. An impressive diversity of HLA alleles, which results in amino acid substitutions located in the antigen-binding region of HLA molecules, also varies greatly among populations. The KIR differ between individuals according to both gene content and allelic variation, and also display considerable population diversity. Whereas the molecular evolution of these polymorphisms has most likely been subject to natural selection, principally driven by host-pathogen interactions, their patterns of genetic variation worldwide show significant signals of human geographic expansion, demographic history and cultural diversification. As current developments in population genetic analysis and computer simulation improve our ability to discriminate among different--either stochastic or deterministic--forces acting on the genetic evolution of human populations, the study of these systems shows great promise for investigating both the peopling history of modern humans in the time since their common origin and human adaptation to past environmental (e.g. pathogenic) changes. Therefore, in addition to mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosome, microsatellites, single nucleotide polymorphisms and other markers, immunogenetic polymorphisms represent essential and complementary tools for anthropological studies.

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