Characterization of structural variation in Tibetans reveals new evidence of high-altitude adaptation and introgression

Structural variation (SV) acts as an essential mutational force shaping the evolution and function of the human genome. To investigate the role of SVs in high-altitude adaptation (HAA), we here generated a comprehensive catalog of SVs in a Chinese Tibetan (n = 15) and Han (n = 10) population using the nanopore sequencing technology.

Among a total of 38,216 unique SVs in the catalog, 27% were sequence-resolved for the first time. We systemically assessed the distribution of these SVs across repeat sequences and functional genomic regions. Through genotyping in additional 189 genomes, we identified 90 Tibetan-Han stratified SVs and 124 candidate adaptive genes. Besides, we discovered 15 adaptive introgressed SV candidates and provided evidence for a deletion of 335 base pairs at 1p36.32.

Overall, our results highlight the important role of SVs in the evolutionary processes of Tibetans’ adaptation to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and provide a valuable resource for future HAA studies.

Authors: Cheng Quan, Yuanfeng Li, Yahui Wang, Jie Ping, Yiming Lu, Gangqiao Zhou