A 28,000 years old Cro-Magnon mtDNA sequence differs from all potentially contaminating modern sequences.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: DNA sequences from ancient specimens may in fact result from undetected contamination of the ancient specimens by modern DNA, and the problem is particularly challenging in studies of human fossils. Doubts on the authenticity of the available sequences have so far hampered genetic comparisons between anatomically archaic (Neandertal) and early modern (Cro-Magnoid) Europeans. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We typed the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable region I in a 28,000 years old Cro-Magnoid individual from the Paglicci cave, in Italy (Paglicci 23) and in all the people who had contact with the sample since its discovery in 2003. The Paglicci 23 sequence, determined through the analysis of 152 clones, is the Cambridge reference sequence, and cannot possibly reflect contamination because it differs from all potentially contaminating modern sequences. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: The Paglicci 23 individual carried a mtDNA sequence that is still common in Europe, and which radically differs from those of the almost contemporary Neandertals, demonstrating a genealogical continuity across 28,000 years, from Cro-Magnoid to modern Europeans. Because all potential sources of modern DNA contamination are known, the Paglicci 23 sample will offer a unique opportunity to get insight for the first time into the nuclear genes of early modern Europeans.
Project description:During the late Pleistocene, early anatomically modern humans coexisted in Europe with the anatomically archaic Neandertals for some thousand years. Under the recent variants of the multiregional model of human evolution, modern and archaic forms were different but related populations within a single evolving species, and both have contributed to the gene pool of current humans. Conversely, the Out-of-Africa model considers the transition between Neandertals and anatomically modern humans as the result of a demographic replacement, and hence it predicts a genetic discontinuity between them. Following the most stringent current standards for validation of ancient DNA sequences, we typed the mtDNA hypervariable region I of two anatomically modern Homo sapiens sapiens individuals of the Cro-Magnon type dated at about 23 and 25 thousand years ago. Here we show that the mtDNAs of these individuals fall well within the range of variation of today's humans, but differ sharply from the available sequences of the chronologically closer Neandertals. This discontinuity is difficult to reconcile with the hypothesis that both Neandertals and early anatomically modern humans contributed to the current European gene pool.
Project description:While numerous ancient human DNA datasets from across Europe have been published till date, modern-day Poland in particular, remains uninvestigated. Besides application in the reconstruction of continent-wide human history, data from this region would also contribute towards our understanding of the history of the Slavs, whose origin is hypothesized to be in East or Central Europe. Here, we present the first population-scale ancient human DNA study from the region of modern-day Poland by establishing mitochondrial DNA profiles for 23 samples dated to 200 BC - 500 AD (Roman Iron Age) and for 20 samples dated to 1000-1400 AD (Medieval Age). Our results show that mitochondrial DNA sequences from both periods belong to haplogroups that are characteristic of contemporary West Eurasia. Haplotype sharing analysis indicates that majority of the ancient haplotypes are widespread in some modern Europeans, including Poles. Notably, the Roman Iron Age samples share more rare haplotypes with Central and Northeast Europeans, whereas the Medieval Age samples share more rare haplotypes with East-Central and South-East Europeans, primarily Slavic populations. Our data demonstrates genetic continuity of certain matrilineages (H5a1 and N1a1a2) in the area of present-day Poland from at least the Roman Iron Age until present. As such, the maternal gene pool of present-day Poles, Czechs and Slovaks, categorized as Western Slavs, is likely to have descended from inhabitants of East-Central Europe during the Roman Iron Age.
Project description:The Neolithic transition from hunting and gathering to farming and cattle breeding marks one of the most drastic cultural changes in European prehistory. Short stretches of ancient mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from skeletons of pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherers as well as early Neolithic farmers support the demic diffusion model where a migration of early farmers from the Near East and a replacement of pre-Neolithic hunter-gatherers are largely responsible for cultural innovation and changes in subsistence strategies during the Neolithic revolution in Europe. In order to test if a signal of population expansion is still present in modern European mitochondrial DNA, we analyzed a comprehensive dataset of 1,151 complete mtDNAs from present-day Europeans. Relying upon ancient DNA data from previous investigations, we identified mtDNA haplogroups that are typical for early farmers and hunter-gatherers, namely H and U respectively. Bayesian skyline coalescence estimates were then used on subsets of complete mtDNAs from modern populations to look for signals of past population expansions. Our analyses revealed a population expansion between 15,000 and 10,000 years before present (YBP) in mtDNAs typical for hunters and gatherers, with a decline between 10,000 and 5,000 YBP. These corresponded to an analogous population increase approximately 9,000 YBP for mtDNAs typical of early farmers. The observed changes over time suggest that the spread of agriculture in Europe involved the expansion of farming populations into Europe followed by the eventual assimilation of resident hunter-gatherers. Our data show that contemporary mtDNA datasets can be used to study ancient population history if only limited ancient genetic data is available.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Progress in the field of human ancient DNA studies has been severely restricted due to the myriad sources of potential contamination, and because of the pronounced difficulty in identifying authentic results. Improving the robustness of human aDNA results is a necessary pre-requisite to vigorously testing hypotheses about human evolution in Europe, including possible admixture with Neanderthals. This study approaches the problem of distinguishing between authentic and contaminating sequences from common European mtDNA haplogroups by applying a multiplexed Single-Base-Extension assay, containing both control and coding region sites, to DNA extracted from the Tyrolean Iceman.<h4>Results</h4>The multiplex assay developed for this study was able to confirm that the Iceman's mtDNA belongs to a new European mtDNA clade with a very limited distribution amongst modern data sets. Controlled contamination experiments show that the correct results are returned by the multiplex assay even in the presence of substantial amounts of exogenous DNA. The overall level of discrimination achieved by targeting both control and coding region polymorphisms in a single reaction provides a methodology capable of dealing with most cases of homoplasy prevalent in European haplogroups.<h4>Conclusion</h4>The new genotyping results for the Iceman confirm the extreme fallibility of human aDNA studies in general, even when authenticated by independent replication. The sensitivity and accuracy of the multiplex Single-Base-Extension methodology forms part of an emerging suite of alternative techniques for the accurate retrieval of ancient DNA sequences from both anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals. The contamination of laboratories remains a pressing concern in aDNA studies, both in the pre and post-PCR environments, and the adoption of a forensic style assessment of a priori risks would significantly improve the credibility of results.
Project description:Umbria is located in Central Italy and took the name from its ancient inhabitants, the Umbri, whose origins are still debated. Here, we investigated the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation of 545 present-day Umbrians (with 198 entire mitogenomes) and 28 pre-Roman individuals (obtaining 19 ancient mtDNAs) excavated from the necropolis of Plestia. We found a rather homogeneous distribution of western Eurasian lineages across the region, with few notable exceptions. Contemporary inhabitants of the eastern part, delimited by the Tiber River and the Apennine Mountains, manifest a peculiar mitochondrial proximity to central-eastern Europeans, mainly due to haplogroups U4 and U5a, and an overrepresentation of J (30%) similar to the pre-Roman remains, also excavated in East Umbria. Local genetic continuities are further attested to by six terminal branches (H1e1, J1c3, J2b1, U2e2a, U8b1b1 and K1a4a) shared between ancient and modern mitogenomes. Eventually, we identified multiple inputs from various population sources that likely shaped the mitochondrial gene pool of ancient Umbri over time, since early Neolithic, including gene flows with central-eastern Europe. This diachronic mtDNA portrait of Umbria fits well with the genome-wide population structure identified on the entire peninsula and with historical sources that list the Umbri among the most ancient Italic populations.
Project description:To date, the field of ancient DNA has relied almost exclusively on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences. However, a number of recent studies have reported the successful recovery of ancient nuclear DNA (nuDNA) sequences, thereby allowing the characterization of genetic loci directly involved in phenotypic traits of extinct taxa. It is well documented that postmortem damage in ancient mtDNA can lead to the generation of artifactual sequences. However, as yet no one has thoroughly investigated the damage spectrum in ancient nuDNA. By comparing clone sequences from 23 fossil specimens, recovered from environments ranging from permafrost to desert, we demonstrate the presence of miscoding lesion damage in both the mtDNA and nuDNA, resulting in insertion of erroneous bases during amplification. Interestingly, no significant differences in the frequency of miscoding lesion damage are recorded between mtDNA and nuDNA despite great differences in cellular copy numbers. For both mtDNA and nuDNA, we find significant positive correlations between total sequence heterogeneity and the rates of type 1 transitions (adenine --> guanine and thymine --> cytosine) and type 2 transitions (cytosine --> thymine and guanine --> adenine), respectively. Type 2 transitions are by far the most dominant and increase relative to those of type 1 with damage load. The results suggest that the deamination of cytosine (and 5-methyl cytosine) to uracil (and thymine) is the main cause of miscoding lesions in both ancient mtDNA and nuDNA sequences. We argue that the problems presented by postmortem damage, as well as problems with contamination from exogenous sources of conserved nuclear genes, allelic variation, and the reliance on single nucleotide polymorphisms, call for great caution in studies relying on ancient nuDNA sequences.
Project description:The importance of the process of Neolithization for the genetic make-up of European populations has been hotly debated, with shifting hypotheses from a demic diffusion (DD) to a cultural diffusion (CD) model. In this regard, ancient DNA data from the Balkan Peninsula, which is an important source of information to assess the process of Neolithization in Europe, is however missing. In the present study we show genetic information on ancient populations of the South-East of Europe. We assessed mtDNA from ten sites from the current territory of Romania, spanning a time-period from the Early Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age. mtDNA data from Early Neolithic farmers of the Starčevo Criş culture in Romania (Cârcea, Gura Baciului and Negrileşti sites), confirm their genetic relationship with those of the LBK culture (Linienbandkeramik Kultur) in Central Europe, and they show little genetic continuity with modern European populations. On the other hand, populations of the Middle-Late Neolithic (Boian, Zau and Gumelniţa cultures), supposedly a second wave of Neolithic migration from Anatolia, had a much stronger effect on the genetic heritage of the European populations. In contrast, we find a smaller contribution of Late Bronze Age migrations to the genetic composition of Europeans. Based on these findings, we propose that permeation of mtDNA lineages from a second wave of Middle-Late Neolithic migration from North-West Anatolia into the Balkan Peninsula and Central Europe represent an important contribution to the genetic shift between Early and Late Neolithic populations in Europe, and consequently to the genetic make-up of modern European populations.
Project description:Ancient DNA (aDNA) studies are frequently focused on the analysis of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is much more abundant than the nuclear genome, hence can be better retrieved from ancient remains. However, postmortem DNA damage and contamination make the data analysis difficult because of DNA fragmentation and nucleotide alterations. In this regard, the assessment of the heteroplasmic fraction in ancient mtDNA has always been considered an unachievable goal due to the complexity in distinguishing true endogenous variants from artifacts. We implemented and applied a computational pipeline for mtDNA analysis to a dataset of 30 ancient human samples from an Iron Age necropolis in Polizzello (Sicily, Italy). The pipeline includes several modules from well-established tools for aDNA analysis and a recently released variant caller, which was specifically conceived for mtDNA, applied for the first time to aDNA data. Through a fine-tuned filtering on variant allele sequencing features, we were able to accurately reconstruct nearly complete (>88%) mtDNA genome for almost all the analyzed samples (27 out of 30), depending on the degree of preservation and the sequencing throughput, and to get a reliable set of variants allowing haplogroup prediction. Additionally, we provide guidelines to deal with possible artifact sources, including nuclear mitochondrial sequence (NumtS) contamination, an often-neglected issue in ancient mtDNA surveys. Potential heteroplasmy levels were also estimated, although most variants were likely homoplasmic, and validated by data simulations, proving that new sequencing technologies and software are sensitive enough to detect partially mutated sites in ancient genomes and discriminate true variants from artifacts. A thorough functional annotation of detected and filtered mtDNA variants was also performed for a comprehensive evaluation of these ancient samples.
Project description:Genetic material sequenced from ancient samples is revolutionizing our understanding of the recent evolutionary past. However, ancient DNA is often degraded, resulting in low coverage, error-prone sequencing. Several solutions exist to this problem, ranging from simple approach, such as selecting a read at random for each site, to more complicated approaches involving genotype likelihoods. In this work, we present a novel method for assessing the relationship of an ancient sample with a modern population, while accounting for sequencing error and postmortem damage by analyzing raw reads from multiple ancient individuals simultaneously. We show that, when analyzing SNP data, it is better to sequence more ancient samples to low coverage: two samples sequenced to 0.5× coverage provide better resolution than a single sample sequenced to 2× coverage. We also examined the power to detect whether an ancient sample is directly ancestral to a modern population, finding that, with even a few high coverage individuals, even ancient samples that are very slightly diverged from the modern population can be detected with ease. When we applied our approach to European samples, we found that no ancient samples represent direct ancestors of modern Europeans. We also found that, as shown previously, the most ancient Europeans appear to have had the smallest effective population sizes, indicating a role for agriculture in modern population growth.
Project description:DNA from ancient human remains provides perspectives on the origin of our species and the relationship between molecular and morphological variation. We report analysis of mtDNA from the remains of 10 ancient Australians. These include the morphologically gracile Lake Mungo 3 [ approximately 60 thousand years (ka) before present] and three other gracile individuals from Holocene deposits at Willandra Lakes (<10 ka), all within the skeletal range of living Australians, and six Pleistocene/early Holocene individuals (15 to <8 ka) from Kow Swamp with robust morphologies outside the skeletal range of contemporary indigenous Australians. Lake Mungo 3 is the oldest (Pleistocene) "anatomically modern" human from whom DNA has been recovered. His mtDNA belonged to a lineage that only survives as a segment inserted into chromosome 11 of the nuclear genome, which is now widespread among human populations. This lineage probably diverged before the most recent common ancestor of contemporary human mitochondrial genomes. This timing of divergence implies that the deepest known mtDNA lineage from an anatomically modern human occurred in Australia; analysis restricted to living humans places the deepest branches in East Africa. The other ancient Australian individuals we examined have mtDNA sequences descended from the most recent common ancestor of living humans. Our results indicate that anatomically modern humans were present in Australia before the complete fixation of the mtDNA lineage now found in all living people. Sequences from additional ancient humans may further challenge current concepts of modern human origins.