Derived immune and ancestral pigmentation alleles in a 7,000-year-old Mesolithic European

Nature. 2014 Mar 13;507(7491):225-8. doi: 10.1038/nature12960. Epub 2014 Jan 26.


Ancient genomic sequences have started to reveal the origin and the demographic impact of farmers from the Neolithic period spreading into Europe. The adoption of farming, stock breeding and sedentary societies during the Neolithic may have resulted in adaptive changes in genes associated with immunity and diet. However, the limited data available from earlier hunter-gatherers preclude an understanding of the selective processes associated with this crucial transition to agriculture in recent human evolution. Here we sequence an approximately 7,000-year-old Mesolithic skeleton discovered at the La Braña-Arintero site in León, Spain, to retrieve a complete pre-agricultural European human genome. Analysis of this genome in the context of other ancient samples suggests the existence of a common ancient genomic signature across western and central Eurasia from the Upper Paleolithic to the Mesolithic. The La Braña individual carries ancestral alleles in several skin pigmentation genes, suggesting that the light skin of modern Europeans was not yet ubiquitous in Mesolithic times. Moreover, we provide evidence that a significant number of derived, putatively adaptive variants associated with pathogen resistance in modern Europeans were already present in this hunter-gatherer.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / history
  • Alleles*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Caves
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Eye Color / genetics
  • Fossils*
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Genomics
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Immunity / genetics*
  • Lactose Intolerance / genetics
  • Male
  • Pigmentation / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Skeleton
  • Skin Pigmentation / genetics
  • Spain / ethnology