Dispersals and genetic adaptation of Bantu-speaking populations in Africa and North America

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Science  05 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6337, pp. 543-546
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1988

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On the history of Bantu speakers

Africans are underrepresented in many surveys of genetic diversity, which hinders our ability to study human evolution and the health of modern populations. Patin et al. examined the genetic diversity of Bantu speakers, who account for one-third of sub-Saharan Africans. They then modeled the timing of migration and admixture during the Bantu expansion. The analysis revealed adaptive introgression of genes that likely originated in other African populations, including specific immune-related genes. Applying this information to African Americans suggests that gene flow from Africa into the Americas was more complex than previously thought.

Science, this issue p. 543


Bantu languages are spoken by about 310 million Africans, yet the genetic history of Bantu-speaking populations remains largely unexplored. We generated genomic data for 1318 individuals from 35 populations in western central Africa, where Bantu languages originated. We found that early Bantu speakers first moved southward, through the equatorial rainforest, before spreading toward eastern and southern Africa. We also found that genetic adaptation of Bantu speakers was facilitated by admixture with local populations, particularly for the HLA and LCT loci. Finally, we identified a major contribution of western central African Bantu speakers to the ancestry of African Americans, whose genomes present no strong signals of natural selection. Together, these results highlight the contribution of Bantu-speaking peoples to the complex genetic history of Africans and African Americans.

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