Genetic profile of cosmopolitan populations: effects of hidden subdivision.

R. Chakraborty

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1 Scopus citations


Natural populations of many organisms exhibit excess of rare alleles in comparison with the predictions of the neutral mutation hypothesis. It has been shown before that either a population bottleneck or the presence of slightly deleterious mutations can explain this phenomenon. A third explanation is presented in this work, showing that hidden subdivision within a population can also lead to an excess of rare alleles in the total population when the expectations of the neutral model are based on the allele frequency profile of the entire population data. With two examples (mitochondrial DNA-morph distribution and isozyme allele frequency distributions), it is shown that most cosmopolitan human populations exhibit excess of rare as well as total allele counts, when these are compared with the expectations of the neutral mutation hypothesis. The mitochondrial data demonstrate that such excesses can be detected from genetic variation at a single locus as well, and this is not due to stochastic error of allele frequency distributions. Contrast of the present observations with the allele frequency profiles in agglomerated tribal populations from South and Central America shows that even when the neutral expectations hold for individual subpopulations, if all subpopulations are grouped into a single population, the pooled data exhibit an excess of total number of alleles that is mainly due to the excess of rare alleles. Therefore, a primary cause of the excess number of rare alleles could be the hidden subdivision, and the magnitude of the excess indicates the extent of substructuring. The two components of hidden subdivision are: 1) Number of subpopulations, and 2) the average genetic distance among them. The implications of this observation in estimating mutation rate are discussed indicating the difficulties of comparing mutation rates from different population surveys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-331
Number of pages19
JournalAnthropologischer Anzeiger; Bericht über die biologisch-anthropologische Literatur
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1990


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