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Researchers carry out first in-depth genetic analysis of Neanderthal Y chromosome
A research paper published in the American Journal of Human Genetics has unveiled new facts about the relationship between Neanderthals and modern humans and genetic factors that have kept two lineages separate. Earlier research has indicated that modern humans and Neanderthals may have interbred at different times and at different regions.
In the study, researchers have completed the first in-depth genetic analysis of a Neanderthal Y chromosome. The Y chromosome was the main factor that was yet to be assessed from the Neanderthal genome.
Fernando Mendez of Stanford University said, “Characterizing the Neanderthal Y chromosome helps us to better understand the population divergence that led to Neanderthals and modern humans. It also enables us to explore possible genetic interactions between archaic and modern [gene] variants within hybrid offspring”.
The researchers have assessed Y chromosome from a Neanderthal male found in El Sidrón, Spain. From the assessment, the researchers have come to know that Neanderthals and modern humans separated around 590,000 years back.
Three of the changes are missense mutations in genes known in humans to produce male-specific minor histocompatibility antigens. Antigens derived from one of the genes known as KDM5D is thought to have elicited an immune response in some pregnant mothers against their male fetuses and lead to miscarriage.
The Neanderthal Y chromosome is different from Y chromosome observed in modern humans, which suggests that the lineage in question is extinct. The researchers have also found protein-coding differences between genes on the Neanderthal and modern human Y chromosomes.
Incompatibilities at one or more of the genes is said to have played a role in driving ancient humans and Neanderthals apart. It is also said that Y chromosome also had played a role in barriers to gene flow.
As per the researchers, additional research is needed to confirm the role of Y-chromosome mutations in putting off the formation of a hybrid Neanderthal and human species.