How recent are rare variants?

The Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, in a multi-institutional effort sequenced 15,336 genes for the NHLBI sponsored ESP project from a total of 6515 individuals of European American and African American descent.To identify approaches for disease-gene discovery, its important to understand evolutionary history of homosapiens and identify the age of mutations.

The group estimated 73% of all protein-coding SNV’s and around 86% of all SNVs predicted to be deleterious are a recent change within 5,000-10,000 years. European Americans had an excess of deleterious variants and had weaker purifying selection and that was explained with the out-of-africa model.

The gist you ask: rare variants have an important role in heritable phenotypic variation, disease susceptibility and adverse drug responses. The increasing population size has not had enough turn around time for selection to act upon, its only been 200-300 generations since these mutations came to be. Now this increase in mutations results in more Mendelian disorders and has increased the allelic and genetic heterogeneity of traits.

Though if there’s a positive side to it, it may as well be that we as people have created a new repository of advantageous alleles that have come into being fairly recently and hopefully evolution will act upon in subsequent generations

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