Seminar Details

Paleo-epigenetics: Studying human evolution using DNA methylation maps




Prof. Liran Carmel - Dept. of Genetics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Changes in regulation are broadly accepted as key drivers of phenotypic differences between closely related species. However, identifying the regulatory changes that shaped human-specific traits remains poorly explored. We used >60 DNA methylation maps of ancient and present-day human groups, as well as six chimpanzee maps, to detect hundreds of regulatory changes that emerged in modern humans after the split from Neanderthals and Denisovans. We show that DNA methylation in genes affecting vocalization and facial features went through particularly extensive evolution, a trend that is not shared by other archaic human groups. We identify vast changes in a network of genes (SOX9, ACAN, COL2A1 and NFIX), and propose that they might have played a role in the reshaping of the human face, and in forming the 1:1 vocal tract configuration that is considered optimal for speech. Our results provide insights into the molecular mechanisms that may have shaped the modern human face and voice, and suggest that they arose after the split from Neanderthals and Denisovans.

To Seminar List