Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 31841129
Link to DOI – 10.1093/hmg/ddz304
Hum. Mol. Genet. 2020 Mar; 29(5): 736-744
Selective pressures imposed by pathogens have varied among human populations throughout their evolution, leading to marked inter-population differences at some genes mediating susceptibility to infectious and immune-related diseases. Here, we investigated the evolutionary history of a common polymorphism resulting in a Y529 versus C529 change in the cadherin related family member 3 (CDHR3) receptor which underlies variable susceptibility to rhinovirus-C infection and is associated with severe childhood asthma. The protective variant is the derived allele and is found at high frequency worldwide (69-95%). We detected genome-wide significant signatures of natural selection consistent with a rapid increase of the haplotypes carrying the allele, suggesting that non-neutral processes have acted on this locus across all human populations. However, the allele has not fixed in any population despite multiple lines of evidence suggesting that the mutation predates human migrations out of Africa. Using an approximate Bayesian computation method, we estimate the age of the mutation while explicitly accounting for past demography and positive or frequency-dependent balancing selection. Our analyses indicate a single emergence of the mutation in anatomically modern humans ~150 000 years ago and indicate that balancing selection has maintained the beneficial allele at high equilibrium frequencies worldwide. Apart from the well-known cases of the MHC and ABO genes, this study provides the first evidence that negative frequency-dependent selection plausibly acted on a human disease susceptibility locus, a form of balancing selection compatible with typical transmission dynamics of communicable respiratory viruses that might exploit CDHR3.