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      The Genomic Ancestry of Individuals from Different Geographical Regions of Brazil Is More Uniform Than Expected


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          Based on pre-DNA racial/color methodology, clinical and pharmacological trials have traditionally considered the different geographical regions of Brazil as being very heterogeneous. We wished to ascertain how such diversity of regional color categories correlated with ancestry. Using a panel of 40 validated ancestry-informative insertion-deletion DNA polymorphisms we estimated individually the European, African and Amerindian ancestry components of 934 self-categorized White, Brown or Black Brazilians from the four most populous regions of the Country. We unraveled great ancestral diversity between and within the different regions. Especially, color categories in the northern part of Brazil diverged significantly in their ancestry proportions from their counterparts in the southern part of the Country, indicating that diverse regional semantics were being used in the self-classification as White, Brown or Black. To circumvent these regional subjective differences in color perception, we estimated the general ancestry proportions of each of the four regions in a form independent of color considerations. For that, we multiplied the proportions of a given ancestry in a given color category by the official census information about the proportion of that color category in the specific region, to arrive at a “total ancestry” estimate. Once such a calculation was performed, there emerged a much higher level of uniformity than previously expected. In all regions studied, the European ancestry was predominant, with proportions ranging from 60.6% in the Northeast to 77.7% in the South. We propose that the immigration of six million Europeans to Brazil in the 19 th and 20 th centuries - a phenomenon described and intended as the “whitening of Brazil” - is in large part responsible for dissipating previous ancestry dissimilarities that reflected region-specific population histories. These findings, of both clinical and sociological importance for Brazil, should also be relevant to other countries with ancestrally admixed populations.

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          Most cited references 31

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          The evolution of human skin coloration.

          Skin color is one of the most conspicuous ways in which humans vary and has been widely used to define human races. Here we present new evidence indicating that variations in skin color are adaptive, and are related to the regulation of ultraviolet (UV) radiation penetration in the integument and its direct and indirect effects on fitness. Using remotely sensed data on UV radiation levels, hypotheses concerning the distribution of the skin colors of indigenous peoples relative to UV levels were tested quantitatively in this study for the first time. The major results of this study are: (1) skin reflectance is strongly correlated with absolute latitude and UV radiation levels. The highest correlation between skin reflectance and UV levels was observed at 545 nm, near the absorption maximum for oxyhemoglobin, suggesting that the main role of melanin pigmentation in humans is regulation of the effects of UV radiation on the contents of cutaneous blood vessels located in the dermis. (2) Predicted skin reflectances deviated little from observed values. (3) In all populations for which skin reflectance data were available for males and females, females were found to be lighter skinned than males. (4) The clinal gradation of skin coloration observed among indigenous peoples is correlated with UV radiation levels and represents a compromise solution to the conflicting physiological requirements of photoprotection and vitamin D synthesis. The earliest members of the hominid lineage probably had a mostly unpigmented or lightly pigmented integument covered with dark black hair, similar to that of the modern chimpanzee. The evolution of a naked, darkly pigmented integument occurred early in the evolution of the genus Homo. A dark epidermis protected sweat glands from UV-induced injury, thus insuring the integrity of somatic thermoregulation. Of greater significance to individual reproductive success was that highly melanized skin protected against UV-induced photolysis of folate (Branda & Eaton, 1978, Science201, 625-626; Jablonski, 1992, Proc. Australas. Soc. Hum. Biol.5, 455-462, 1999, Med. Hypotheses52, 581-582), a metabolite essential for normal development of the embryonic neural tube (Bower & Stanley, 1989, The Medical Journal of Australia150, 613-619; Medical Research Council Vitamin Research Group, 1991, The Lancet338, 31-37) and spermatogenesis (Cosentino et al., 1990, Proc. Natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.87, 1431-1435; Mathur et al., 1977, Fertility Sterility28, 1356-1360).As hominids migrated outside of the tropics, varying degrees of depigmentation evolved in order to permit UVB-induced synthesis of previtamin D(3). The lighter color of female skin may be required to permit synthesis of the relatively higher amounts of vitamin D(3)necessary during pregnancy and lactation. Skin coloration in humans is adaptive and labile. Skin pigmentation levels have changed more than once in human evolution. Because of this, skin coloration is of no value in determining phylogenetic relationships among modern human groups. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.
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            A human genome diversity cell line panel.

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              Color and genomic ancestry in Brazilians.

              This work was undertaken to ascertain to what degree the physical appearance of a Brazilian individual was predictive of genomic African ancestry. Using a panel of 10 population-specific alleles, we assigned to each person an African ancestry index (AAI). The procedure was able to tell apart, with no overlaps, 20 males from northern Portugal from 20 males from São Tomé Island on the west coast of Africa. We also tested 10 Brazilian Amerindians and observed that their AAI values fell in the same range as the Europeans. Finally, we studied two different Brazilian population samples. The first consisted of 173 individuals from a rural Southeastern community, clinically classified according to their Color (white, black, or intermediate) with a multivariate evaluation based on skin pigmentation in the medial part of the arm, hair color and texture, and the shape of the nose and lips. In contrast to the clear-cut results with the African and European samples, our results showed large variances and extensive overlaps among the three Color categories. We next embarked on a study of 200 unrelated Brazilian white males who originated from cosmopolitan centers of the four major geographic regions of the country. The results showed AAI values intermediate between Europeans and Africans, even in southern Brazil, a region predominantly peopled by European immigrants. Our data suggest that in Brazil, at an individual level, color, as determined by physical evaluation, is a poor predictor of genomic African ancestry, estimated by molecular markers.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                16 February 2011
                : 6
                : 2
                [1 ]Departamento de Bioquímica e Imunologia, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
                [2 ]Departamento de Ciências da Saúde, Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz, Ilhéus, Brazil
                [3 ]Coordenação de Pesquisa/Divisão de Farmacologia, Instituto Nacional do Câncer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
                [4 ]Departamento de Genética, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil
                [5 ]Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia de Medicina Molecular (INCT-MM), Laboratório de Neurociência, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
                [6 ]Unidade de Farmacologia Clínica, Departamento de Fisiologia e Farmacologia, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade Federal do Ceará, Fortaleza, Brazil
                [7 ]Laboratório de Genética Humana e Médica, Universidade Federal do Pará, Guamá, Brazil
                [8 ]Laboratório de Neurociências, Instituto de Psiquiatria, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
                University of Utah, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: SDJP GSK. Performed the experiments: MFM JPG FSGK FK LAVM MRM JAP CR VAS. Analyzed the data: SDJP GSK MHH AKCRS EBO MARS. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: GDP RCM MOM MEAM FRS. Wrote the manuscript: SDJP GSK.

                Pena et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Research Article
                Human Genetics
                Population Biology
                Population Genetics
                Social and Behavioral Sciences
                Cultural Anthropology
                Ethnic Groups
                Biological Anthropology
                Ethnic Groups



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