The Phenotypic Consequences of Genetic Divergence between Admixed Latin American Populations: Antioquia and Chocó, Colombia

Genome Biol Evol. 2020 Sep 1;12(9):1516-1527. doi: 10.1093/gbe/evaa154.


Genome-wide association studies have uncovered thousands of genetic variants that are associated with a wide variety of human traits. Knowledge of how trait-associated variants are distributed within and between populations can provide insight into the genetic basis of group-specific phenotypic differences, particularly for health-related traits. We analyzed the genetic divergence levels for 1) individual trait-associated variants and 2) collections of variants that function together to encode polygenic traits, between two neighboring populations in Colombia that have distinct demographic profiles: Antioquia (Mestizo) and Chocó (Afro-Colombian). Genetic ancestry analysis showed 62% European, 32% Native American, and 6% African ancestry for Antioquia compared with 76% African, 10% European, and 14% Native American ancestry for Chocó, consistent with demography and previous results. Ancestry differences can confound cross-population comparison of polygenic risk scores (PRS); however, we did not find any systematic bias in PRS distributions for the two populations studied here, and population-specific differences in PRS were, for the most part, small and symmetrically distributed around zero. Both genetic differentiation at individual trait-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms and population-specific PRS differences between Antioquia and Chocó largely reflected anthropometric phenotypic differences that can be readily observed between the populations along with reported disease prevalence differences. Cases where population-specific differences in genetic risk did not align with observed trait (disease) prevalence point to the importance of environmental contributions to phenotypic variance, for both infectious and complex, common disease. The results reported here are distributed via a web-based platform for searching trait-associated variants and PRS divergence levels at (last accessed August 12, 2020).

Keywords: disease; genetic ancestry; health; polygenic; population genomics; traits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Colombia
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Multifactorial Inheritance*
  • Phenotype*
  • Racial Groups / genetics*