New Results

The Population Genetic Signature of Polygenic Local Adaptation

Jeremy J Berg, Graham Coop


Adaptation in response to selection on polygenic phenotypes occurs via subtle allele frequencies shifts at many loci. Current population genomic techniques are not well posed to identify such signals. In the past decade, detailed knowledge about the specific loci underlying polygenic traits has begun to emerge from genome-wide association studies (GWAS). Here we combine this knowledge from GWAS with robust population genetic modeling to identify traits that have undergone local adaptation. Using GWAS data, we estimate the mean additive genetic value for a give phenotype across many populations as simple weighted sums of allele frequencies. We model the expected differentiation of GWAS loci among populations under neutrality to develop simple tests of selection across an arbitrary number of populations with arbitrary population structure. To find support for the role of specific environmental variables in local adaptation we test for correlations with the estimated genetic values. We also develop a general test of local adaptation to identify overdispersion of the estimated genetic values values among populations. This test is a natural generalization of QST /FST comparisons based on GWAS predictions. Finally we lay out a framework to identify the individual populations or groups of populations that contribute to the signal of overdispersion. These tests have considerably greater power than their single locus equivalents due to the fact that they look for positive covariance between like effect alleles. We apply our tests to the human genome diversity panel dataset using GWAS data for six different traits. This analysis uncovers a number of putative signals of local adaptation, and we discuss the biological interpretation and caveats of these results.