PNPLA3 fatty liver allele was fixed in Neanderthals and segregates neutrally in humans

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Andreas Geier; Jonas Trost; Ke Wang; Clemens Schmid; Marcin Krawczyk; Stephan Schiffels
Year of Publication: 2024
Journal: Gut
Pagination: gutjnl-2023-331594
Date Published: 2024/03/08
Publication Language: eng

Objective Fat deposition is modulated by environmental factors and genetic predisposition. Genome-wide association studies identified PNPLA3 p.I148M (rs738409) as a common variant that increases risk of developing liver steatosis. When and how this variant evolved in humans has not been studied to date.Design Here we analyse ancient DNA to track the history of this allele throughout human history. In total, 6444 published ancient (modern humans, Neanderthal, Denisovan) and 3943 published present day genomes were used for analysis after extracting genotype calls for PNPLA3 p.I148M. To quantify changes through time, logistic and, by grouping individuals according to geography and age, linear regression analyses were performed.Results We find that archaic human individuals (Neanderthal, Denisovan) exclusively carried a fixed PNPLA3 risk allele, whereas allele frequencies in modern human populations range from very low in Africa to >50% in Mesoamerica. Over the last 15 000 years, distributions of ancestral and derived alleles roughly match the present day distribution. Logistic regression analyses did not yield signals of natural selection during the last 10 000 years.Conclusion Archaic human individuals exclusively carried a fixed PNPLA3 allele associated with fatty liver, whereas allele frequencies in modern human populations are variable even in the oldest samples. Our observation might underscore the advantage of fat storage in cold climate and particularly for Neanderthal under ice age conditions. The absent signals of natural selection during modern human history does not support the thrifty gene hypothesis in case of PNPLA3 p.I148M.All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All data and code for analysis are provided in a github repository: Raw data is from the Allen Ancient DNA Resource version 50. A reference list of all 172 publications that report primary data is available as online supplemental text file 1.

DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2023-331594
Short Title: Gut