1 November 2013
Divergent natural selection caused by differences in solar exposure has resulted in distinctive variations in skin color between human populations. The derived light skin color allele of the SLC24A5 gene, A111T, predominates in populations of Western Eurasian ancestry. To gain insight into when and where this mutation arose, we defined common haplotypes in the genomic region around SLC24A5 across diverse human populations and deduced phylogenetic relationships between them. Virtually all chromosomes carrying the A111T allele share a single 78-kb haplotype that we call C11, indicating that all instances of this mutation in human populations share a common origin. The C11 haplotype was most likely created by a crossover between two haplotypes, followed by the A111T mutation. The two parental precursor haplotypes are found from East Asia to the Americas but are nearly absent in Africa. The distributions of C11 and its parental haplotypes make it most likely that these two last steps occurred between the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, with the A111T mutation occurring after the split between the ancestors of Europeans and East Asians.