The genetic diversity within an 11 kb segment of the MTMR8 gene in a sample of 111 sub-Saharan and 49 non-African X chromosomes was investigated to assess the early evolutionary history of sub-Saharan Africans and the out-of-Africa expansion. The analyses revealed a complex genetic structure of the Africans that contributed to the emergence of modern humans. We observed partitioning of two thirds of old lineages among southern, west/central and east African populations indicating ancient population stratification predating the out of Africa migration. Age estimates of these lineages, older than coalescence times of uniparentally inherited markers, raise the question whether contemporary humans originated from a single population or as an amalgamation of different populations separated by years of independent evolution, thus suggesting a greater antiquity of our species than generally assumed. While the oldest sub-Saharan lineages, ~500 thousand years, are found among Khoe-San from southern-Africa, a distinct haplotype found among Biaka is likely due to admixture from an even older population. An East African population that gave rise to non-Africans underwent a selective sweep affecting the subcentromeric region where MTMR8 is located. This and similar sweeps in four other regions of the X chromosome, documented in the literature, effectively reduced genetic diversity of non-African chromosomes and therefore may have exacerbated the effect of the demographic bottleneck usually ascribed to the out of Africa migration. Our data is suggestive, however, that a bottleneck, occurred in Africa before range expansion.
Labuda, D., Yotova, V., Lefebvre, J. F., Moreau, C., Utermann, G., & Williams, S. M. (2013). X-linked MTMR8 diversity and evolutionary history of sub-saharan populations. PLoS ONE, 8(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080710