ASHG 2012

This was my year attending the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). Wow! The meeting was enormous, but well-organized. The process for uploading presentations, as well as the technology personnel themselves were fantastic, from a speaker/moderator view. Even though the broad focus is human genetics, I found that, similar to the annual meetings of Evolution or SMBE, the topics vary significantly, and often sessions of similar interest (to me at least) were scheduled concurrently. The venue and schedule were very amenable to switching between sessions, and for facilitating interactions during the breaks. I especially liked that there was space to allow posters to stay up multiple days, and to stagger presenters from each poster topic.

I tweeted less than usual, but I blame this on a conference being too close to home (such that I could attend the conference, but still had all the responsibilities of being “home”).

Here’s a synopsis of ASHG2012. In particular, I’d like to point out that the Nielsen lab got a bullet point, as did my talk!

– The Nielsen Group is still working on high altitude adaptations. They don’t see hard sweeps. Of course I didn’t get confirmation of whether these were old variants, but it looks as if a lot of preliminary stuff did not have the power to detect anything in the first group. As usual they are up to something.

– Speaking of the Nielsen Group, Melissa Wilson Sayres’s work on purifying selection on Y chromosomal lineages was persuasive to me. Basically, effective population differences (e.g, polygyny) just can not explain the lower diversity of the Y lineages (they ran simulations). Luckily for the phylogeographers this won’t impact the utility of Y trees (positive selection would, but that’s not what she’s talking about). I’m a little confused whether it was Sayres’ talk or not, but these results may explain the discordance in coalescence between mtDNA and Y lineages (the former has a deeper coalescence).”

I didn’t mention it specifically, but yes, I do think that purifying selection may be able to explain the differing estimates of the TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) obtained from mtDNA and chromosome Y studies, by reducing the time to coalescence for the Y lineage.

I’d love to hear what you all took away from the conference.

3 Comments

  1. great talk! the topic was interesting to me and all, but there were other talks in the same category of substantive interest which were not well organized or super clear (none shall be named 🙂

  2. You might be interested to know that the time depth of the Y-chromosome MRCA is now much older than previously thought, with the upcoming publication of the A00 basal clade (see #FTDNA2012 tag on twitter for some early reports, or my blog entry on the topic). So, it may soon be the case that the Y-chromosome phylogeny of modern humans is twice as _old_ as the mtDNA phylogeny of the same. There may be other reasons to suspect purifying selection on the chrY, but a younger TMRCA does not appear to be one of them.

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