Genomic Evidence of Local Adaptation to Climate and Diet in Indigenous Siberians

Mol Biol Evol. 2019 Feb 1;36(2):315-327. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msy211.


The indigenous inhabitants of Siberia live in some of the harshest environments on earth, experiencing extended periods of severe cold temperatures, dramatic variation in photoperiod, and limited and highly variable food resources. While the successful long-term settlement of this area by humans required multiple behavioral and cultural innovations, the nature of the underlying genetic changes has generally remained elusive. In this study, we used a three-part approach to identify putative targets of positive natural selection in Siberians. We first performed selection scans on whole exome and genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism array data from multiple Siberian populations. We then annotated candidates in the tails of the empirical distributions, focusing on candidates with evidence linking them to biological processes and phenotypes previously identified as relevant to adaptation in circumpolar groups. The top candidates were then genotyped in additional populations to determine their spatial allele frequency distributions and associations with climate variables. Our analysis reveals missense mutations in three genes involved in lipid metabolism (PLA2G2A, PLIN1, and ANGPTL8) that exhibit genomic and spatial patterns consistent with selection for cold climate and/or diet. These variants are unified by their connection to brown adipose tissue and may help to explain previously observed physiological differences in Siberians such as low serum lipid levels and increased basal metabolic rate. These results support the hypothesis that indigenous Siberians have genetically adapted to their local environment by selection on multiple genes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological*
  • Angiopoietin-Like Protein 8
  • Angiopoietin-like Proteins / genetics
  • Climate
  • Diet
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genome, Human*
  • Group II Phospholipases A2 / genetics
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Linkage Disequilibrium
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Peptide Hormones / genetics
  • Perilipin-1 / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Siberia


  • ANGPTL8 protein, human
  • Angiopoietin-Like Protein 8
  • Angiopoietin-like Proteins
  • PLIN1 protein, human
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Perilipin-1
  • Group II Phospholipases A2
  • PLA2G2A protein, human

Associated data

  • BioProject/PRJNA389435
  • GEO/GSE73996