Ancestry-Dependent Enrichment of Deleterious Homozygotes in Runs of Homozygosity

Zachary A. Szpiech, Angel C.Y. Mak, Marquitta J. White, Donglei Hu, Celeste Eng, Esteban G. Burchard, Ryan D. Hernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Runs of homozygosity (ROH) are important genomic features that manifest when an individual inherits two haplotypes that are identical by descent. Their length distributions are informative about population history, and their genomic locations are useful for mapping recessive loci contributing to both Mendelian and complex disease risk. We have previously shown that ROH, and especially long ROH that are likely the result of recent parental relatedness, are enriched for homozygous deleterious coding variation in a worldwide sample of outbred individuals. However, the distribution of ROH in admixed populations and their relationship to deleterious homozygous genotypes is understudied. Here we analyze whole-genome sequencing data from 1,441 unrelated individuals from self-identified African American, Puerto Rican, and Mexican American populations. These populations are three-way admixed between European, African, and Native American ancestries and provide an opportunity to study the distribution of deleterious alleles partitioned by local ancestry and ROH. We re-capitulate previous findings that long ROH are enriched for deleterious variation genome-wide. We then partition by local ancestry and show that deleterious homozygotes arise at a higher rate when ROH overlap African ancestry segments than when they overlap European or Native American ancestry segments of the genome. These results suggest that, while ROH on any haplotype background are associated with an inflation of deleterious homozygous variation, African haplotype backgrounds may play a particularly important role in the genetic architecture of complex diseases for admixed individuals, highlighting the need for further study of these populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-762
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Genetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 3 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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