Statistical properties of the variation at linked microsatellite loci: implications for the history of human Y chromosomes.
It has recently been suggested that observed levels of variation at microsatellite loci can be used to infer patterns of selection in genomes and to assess demographic history. In order to evaluate the feasibility of these suggestions it is necessary to know something about how levels of variation at microsatellite loci are expected to fluctuate due simply to stochasticity in the processes of mutation and inheritance (genetic sampling). Here we use recently derived properties of the stepwise mutation model to place confidence intervals around the variance in repeat score that is expected at mutation-drift equilibrium and outline a statistical test for whether an observed value differs significantly from expectation. We also develop confidence intervals for the time course of the buildup of variation following a complete elimination of variation, such as might be caused by a selective sweep or an extreme population bottleneck. We apply these methods to the variation observed at human Y-specific microsatellites. Although a number of authors have suggested the possibility of a very recent sweep, our analyses suggest that a sweep or extreme bottleneck is unlikely to have occurred anytime during the last approximately 74,000 years. To generate this result we use a recently estimated mutation rate for microsatellite loci of 5.6 x 10(-4) along with the variation observed at autosomal microsatellite loci to estimate the human effective population size. This estimate is 18,000, implying an effective number of 4,500 Y chromosomes. One important general conclusion to emerge from this study is that in order to reject mutation-drift equilibrium at a set of linked microsatellite loci it is necessary to have an unreasonably large number of loci unless the observed variance is far below that expected at mutation-drift equilibrium.
Goldstein, DB; Zhivotovsky, LA; Nayar, K; Linares, AR; Cavalli-Sforza, LL; Feldman, MW
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