Denisovan DNA in the genome of early East Asians

October 29, 2020

In 2006, miners discovered a hominin skullcap with peculiar morphological features in the Salkhit Valley of the Norovlin county in eastern Mongolia. It was initially referred to as Mongolanthropus and thought to be a Neandertal or even a Homo erectus. The remains of the "Salkhit" individual represent the only Pleistocene hominin fossil found in the country.

Ancient DNA extracted from the skullcap shows that it belonged to a female modern human who lived 34,000 ago and was more related to Asians than to Europeans. Comparisons to the only other early East Asian individual genetically studied to date, a 40,000-year-old male from Tianyuan Cave outside Beijing (China), show that the two individuals are related to each other. However, they differ insofar that a quarter of the ancestry of the Salkhit individual derived from western Eurasians, probably via admixture with ancient Siberians.

Migration and interaction

"This is direct evidence that modern human communities in East Asia were already quite cosmopolitan earlier than 34,000 years ago", says Diyendo Massilani, lead author of the study and researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "This rare specimen shows that migration and interactions among populations across Eurasia happened frequently already some 35,000 years ago".

The researchers used a new method developed at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology to find segments of DNA from extinct hominins in the Salkhit and Tianyuan genomes. They found that the two genomes contain not only Neandertal DNA but also DNA from Denisovans, an elusive Asian relative of Neandertals. "It is fascinating to see that the ancestors of the oldest humans in East Asia from whom we have been able to obtain genetic data had already mixed with Denisovans, an extinct form of hominins that has contributed ancestry to present-day populations in Asia and Oceania", says Byambaa Gunchinsuren, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. "This is direct evidence that Denisovans and modern humans had met and mixed more than 40,000 years ago".

"Interestingly, the Denisovan DNA fragments in these very old East Asians overlap with Denisovan DNA fragments in the genomes of present-day populations in East Asia but not with Denisovan DNA fragments in Oceanians. This supports a model of multiple independent mixture events between Denisovans and modern humans", says Massilani.
-end-


Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Related DNA Articles from Brightsurf:

A new twist on DNA origami
A team* of scientists from ASU and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) led by Hao Yan, ASU's Milton Glick Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, and director of the ASU Biodesign Institute's Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, has just announced the creation of a new type of meta-DNA structures that will open up the fields of optoelectronics (including information storage and encryption) as well as synthetic biology.

Solving a DNA mystery
''A watched pot never boils,'' as the saying goes, but that was not the case for UC Santa Barbara researchers watching a ''pot'' of liquids formed from DNA.

Junk DNA might be really, really useful for biocomputing
When you don't understand how things work, it's not unusual to think of them as just plain old junk.

Designing DNA from scratch: Engineering the functions of micrometer-sized DNA droplets
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have constructed ''DNA droplets'' comprising designed DNA nanostructures.

Does DNA in the water tell us how many fish are there?
Researchers have developed a new non-invasive method to count individual fish by measuring the concentration of environmental DNA in the water, which could be applied for quantitative monitoring of aquatic ecosystems.

Zigzag DNA
How the cell organizes DNA into tightly packed chromosomes. Nature publication by Delft University of Technology and EMBL Heidelberg.

Scientists now know what DNA's chaperone looks like
Researchers have discovered the structure of the FACT protein -- a mysterious protein central to the functioning of DNA.

DNA is like everything else: it's not what you have, but how you use it
A new paradigm for reading out genetic information in DNA is described by Dr.

A new spin on DNA
For decades, researchers have chased ways to study biological machines.

From face to DNA: New method aims to improve match between DNA sample and face database
Predicting what someone's face looks like based on a DNA sample remains a hard nut to crack for science.

Read More: DNA News and DNA Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.