Neanderthal introgression reintroduced functional ancestral alleles lost in Eurasian populations
Neanderthal ancestry remains across modern Eurasian genomes and introgressed sequences influence diverse phenotypes. Here, we demonstrate that introgressed sequences reintroduced thousands of ancestral alleles that were lost in Eurasian populations before introgression. Our simulations and variant effect predictions argue that these reintroduced alleles (RAs) are more likely to be tolerated by modern humans than are introgressed Neanderthal-derived alleles (NDAs) due to their distinct evolutionary histories. Consistent with this, we show enrichment for RAs and depletion for NDAs on introgressed haplotypes with expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) and phenotype associations. Analysis of available cross-population eQTLs and massively parallel reporter assay data show that RAs commonly influence gene expression independent of linked NDAs. We further validate these independent effects for one RA in vitro. Finally, we demonstrate that NDAs are depleted for regulatory activity compared to RAs, while RAs have activity levels similar to non-introgressed variants. In summary, our study reveals that Neanderthal introgression reintroduced thousands of lost ancestral variants with gene regulatory activity and that these RAs were more tolerated than NDAs. Thus, RAs and their distinct evolutionary histories must be considered when evaluating the effects of introgression.