Evidence of Polygenic Adaptation in Sardinia at Height-Associated Loci Ascertained from the Biobank Japan

Minhui Chen, Carlo Sidore, Masato Akiyama, Kazuyoshi Ishigaki, Yoichiro Kamatani, David Schlessinger, Francesco Cucca, Yukinori Okada, Charleston W.K. Chiang

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Adult height is one of the earliest putative examples of polygenic adaptation in humans. However, this conclusion was recently challenged because residual uncorrected stratification from large-scale consortium studies was considered responsible for the previously noted genetic difference. It thus remains an open question whether height loci exhibit signals of polygenic adaptation in any human population. We re-examined this question, focusing on one of the shortest European populations, the Sardinians, in addition to mainland European populations. We utilized height-associated loci from the Biobank Japan (BBJ) dataset to further alleviate concerns of biased ascertainment of GWAS loci and showed that the Sardinians remain significantly shorter than expected under neutrality (∼0.22 standard deviation shorter than Utah residents with ancestry from northern and western Europe [CEU] on the basis of polygenic height scores, p = 3.89 × 10−4). We also found the trajectory of polygenic height scores between the Sardinian and the British populations diverged over at least the last 10,000 years (p = 0.0082), consistent with a signature of polygenic adaptation driven primarily by the Sardinian population. Although the polygenic score-based analysis showed a much subtler signature in mainland European populations, we found a clear and robust adaptive signature in the UK population by using a haplotype-based statistic, the trait singleton density score (tSDS), driven by the height-increasing alleles (p = 9.1 × 10−4). In summary, by ascertaining height loci in a distant East Asian population, we further supported the evidence of polygenic adaptation at height-associated loci among the Sardinians. In mainland Europeans, the adaptive signature was detected in haplotype-based analysis but not in polygenic score-based analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-71
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican journal of human genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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