Analyses investigating low frequency variants have the potential for explaining additional genetic heritability of many complex human traits. However, the natural frequencies of rare variation between human populations strongly confound genetic analyses. We have applied a novel collapsing method to identify biological features with low frequency variant burden differences in thirteen populations sequenced by the 1000 Genomes Project. Our flexible collapsing tool utilizes expert biological knowledge from multiple publicly available database sources to direct feature selection. Variants were collapsed according to genetically driven features, such as evolutionary conserved regions, regulatory regions genes, and pathways. We have conducted an extensive comparison of low frequency variant burden differences (MAF<0.03) between populations from 1000 Genomes Project Phase I data. We found that on average 26.87% of gene bins, 35.47% of intergenic bins, 42.85% of pathway bins, 14.86% of ORegAnno regulatory bins, and 5.97% of evolutionary conserved regions show statistically significant differences in low frequency variant burden across populations from the 1000 Genomes Project. The proportion of bins with significant differences in low frequency burden depends on the ancestral similarity of the two populations compared and types of features tested. Even closely related populations had notable differences in low frequency burden, but fewer differences than populations from different continents. Furthermore, conserved or functionally relevant regions had fewer significant differences in low frequency burden than regions under less evolutionary constraint. This degree of low frequency variant differentiation across diverse populations and feature elements highlights the critical importance of considering population stratification in the new era of DNA sequencing and low frequency variant genomic analyses.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research