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Differentiated Demographic Histories and Local Adaptations between Sherpas and Tibetans
author: Zhang C, Lu Y, Feng Q, Wang X, Lou H, Liu J, Ning Z, Yuan K, Wang Y, Zhou Y, Deng L, Liu L, Yang Y, Li S, Ma L, Zhang Z, Jin L, Su B, Kang L, Xu S


The genetic relationships reported by recent studies between Sherpas and Tibetans are controversial. To gain insights into the population history and the genetic basis of high-altitude adaptation of the two groups, we analyzed genome-wide data in 111 Sherpas (Tibet and Nepal) and 177 Tibetans (Tibet and Qinghai), together with available data from present-day human populations.


Sherpas and Tibetans show considerable genetic differences and can be distinguished as two distinct groups, even though the divergence between them (~3200-11,300 years ago) is much later than that between Han Chinese and either of the two groups (~6200-16,000 years ago). Sub-population structures exist in both Sherpas and Tibetans, corresponding to geographical or linguistic groups. Differentiation of genetic variants between Sherpas and Tibetans associated with adaptation to either high-altitude or ultraviolet radiation were identified and validated by genotyping additional Sherpa and Tibetan samples.


Our analyses indicate that both Sherpas and Tibetans are admixed populations, but the findings do not support the previous hypothesis that Tibetans derive their ancestry from Sherpas and Han Chinese. Compared to Tibetans, Sherpas show higher levels of South Asian ancestry, while Tibetans show higher levels of East Asian and Central Asian/Siberian ancestry. We propose a new model to elucidate the differentiated demographic histories and local adaptations of Sherpas and Tibetans

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Page number: 115
Issue: 1
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PubYear: 2017
Volume: 18
Unit code: 152453
Publication name: Genome Biology
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