Southeast Asia houses various culturally and linguistically diverse ethnic groups. In Malaysia, where the Malay, Chinese, and Indian ethnic groups form the majority, there exist minority groups such as the "negritos" who are believed to be descendants of the earliest settlers of Southeast Asia. Here we report patterns of genetic substructure and admixture in two Malaysian negrito populations (Jehai and Kensiu), using ~50,000 genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data. We found traces of recent admixture in both the negrito populations, particularly in the Jehai, with the Malay through principal component analysis and STRUCTURE analysis software, which suggested that the admixture was as recent as one generation ago. We also identified significantly differentiated nonsynonymous SNPs and haplotype blocks related to intracellular transport, metabolic processes, and detection of stimulus. These results highlight the different levels of admixture experienced by the two Malaysian negritos. Delineating admixture and differentiated genomic regions should be of importance in designing and interpretation of molecular anthropology and disease association studies.
This is the first report of high-resolution human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing in four indigenous groups in Malaysia. A total of 99 normal, healthy participants representing the Negrito (Jehai and Kensiu), Proto-Malay (Temuan) and a native group of Borneo (Bidayuh) were typed for HLA-A, -B, -DRB1 and -DQB1 genes using sequence-based typing. Eleven HLA-A, 26 HLA-B, 16 HLA-DRB1 and 14 HLA-DQB1 alleles were detected, including a new allele, HLA-B*3589 in the Jehai. Highly frequent alleles were A*2407, B*1513, B*1801, DRB1*0901, DRB1*1202, DRB1*1502, DQB1*0303 and DQB1*0502. Principal component analysis based on high-resolution HLA-A, -B and -DRB1 allele frequencies showed close affinities among all four groups, including the Negritos, with other Southeast Asian populations. These results showed the scope of HLA diversity in these indigenous minority groups and may prove beneficial for future disease association, anthropological and forensic studies.
Health scenarios are constantly evolving, particularly in developing countries but little is known regarding the health status of indigenous groups in Malaysia. This study aims to elucidate the current health status in four indigenous populations in the country, who by and large been left out of mainstream healthcare developments.
It has recently been shown that ancestors of New Guineans and Bougainville Islanders have inherited a proportion of their ancestry from Denisovans, an archaic hominin group from Siberia. However, only a sparse sampling of populations from Southeast Asia and Oceania were analyzed. Here, we quantify Denisova admixture in 33 additional populations from Asia and Oceania. Aboriginal Australians, Near Oceanians, Polynesians, Fijians, east Indonesians, and Mamanwa (a "Negrito" group from the Philippines) have all inherited genetic material from Denisovans, but mainland East Asians, western Indonesians, Jehai (a Negrito group from Malaysia), and Onge (a Negrito group from the Andaman Islands) have not. These results indicate that Denisova gene flow occurred into the common ancestors of New Guineans, Australians, and Mamanwa but not into the ancestors of the Jehai and Onge and suggest that relatives of present-day East Asians were not in Southeast Asia when the Denisova gene flow occurred. Our finding that descendants of the earliest inhabitants of Southeast Asia do not all harbor Denisova admixture is inconsistent with a history in which the Denisova interbreeding occurred in mainland Asia and then spread over Southeast Asia, leading to all its earliest modern human inhabitants. Instead, the data can be most parsimoniously explained if the Denisova gene flow occurred in Southeast Asia itself. Thus, archaic Denisovans must have lived over an extraordinarily broad geographic and ecological range, from Siberia to tropical Asia.
Human presence in Southeast Asia dates back to at least 40,000 years ago, when the current islands formed a continental shelf called Sundaland. In the Philippine Islands, Peninsular Malaysia, and Andaman Islands, there exist indigenous groups collectively called Negritos whose ancestry can be traced to the "First Sundaland People." To understand the relationship between these Negrito groups and their demographic histories, we generated genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism data in the Philippine Negritos and compared them with existing data from other populations. Phylogenetic tree analyses show that Negritos are basal to other East and Southeast Asians, and that they diverged from West Eurasians at least 38,000 years ago. We also found relatively high traces of Denisovan admixture in the Philippine Negritos, but not in the Malaysian and Andamanese groups, suggesting independent introgression and/or parallel losses involving Denisovan introgressed regions. Shared genetic loci between all three Negrito groups could be related to skin pigmentation, height, facial morphology and malarial resistance. These results show the unique status of Negrito groups as descended from the First Sundaland People.