See below the most recent publications by the Larena Lab.
For the complete list of publications, please visit the following links:
Google Scholar, ResearchGate, or ORCID.
Archaic humans have contributed to large-scale variation in modern human T cell receptor genes
Human T cell receptors (TCRs) are critical for mediating immune responses to pathogens and tumors and regulating self-antigen recognition. Yet, variations in the genes encoding TCRs remain insufficiently defined. Detailed analysis of expressed TCR alpha, beta, gamma, and delta genes in 45 donors from four human populations—African, East Asian, South Asian, and European—revealed 175 additional TCR variable and junctional alleles. Most of these contained coding changes and were present at widely differing frequencies in the populations, a finding confirmed using DNA samples from the 1000 Genomes Project. Importantly, we identified three Neanderthal-derived, introgressed TCR regions including a highly divergent TRGV4 variant, which mediated altered butyrophilin-like molecule 3 (BTNL3) ligand reactivity and was frequent in all modern Eurasian population groups. Our results demonstrate remarkable variation in TCR genes in both individuals and populations, providing a strong incentive for including allelic variation in studies of TCR function in human biology.
Episodes of Diversification and Isolation in Island Southeast Asian and Near Oceanian Male Lineages
Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) and Oceania host one of the world’s richest assemblages of human phenotypic, linguistic, and cultural diversity. Despite this, the region’s male genetic lineages are globally among the last to remain unresolved. We compiled ∼9.7 Mb of Y chromosome (chrY) sequence from a diverse sample of over 380 men from this region, including 152 first reported here. The granularity of this data set allows us to fully resolve and date the regional chrY phylogeny. This new high-resolution tree confirms two main population bursts: multiple rapid diversifications following the region’s initial settlement ∼50 kya, and extensive expansions <6 kya. Notably, ∼40–25 kya the deep rooting local lineages of C-M130, M-P256, and S-B254 show almost no further branching events in ISEA, New Guinea, and Australia, matching a similar pause in diversification seen in maternal mitochondrial DNA lineages. The main local lineages start diversifying ∼25 kya, at the time of the last glacial maximum. This improved chrY topology highlights localized events with important historical implications, including pre-Holocene contact between Mainland and ISEA, potential interactions between Australia and the Papuan world, and a sustained period of diversification following the flooding of the ancient Sunda and Sahul continents as the insular landscape observed today formed. The high-resolution phylogeny of the chrY presented here thus enables a detailed exploration of past isolation, interaction, and change in one of the world’s least understood regions.
Unveiling the Genetic History of the Maniq, a primary hunter-gatherer society
The Maniq of southern Thailand is one of the last remaining practicing hunter-gatherer communities in the world. However, our knowledge on their genetic origins and demographic history is still largely limited. We present here the genotype data covering ∼2.3 million SNPs of eleven unrelated Maniq individuals. Our analyses reveal the Maniq to be closely related to the Semang populations of Malaysia (Malay Negritos), who altogether carry an Andamanese-related ancestry linked to the ancient Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers of Mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA). Moreover, the Maniq possess ∼35% East Asian-related ancestry, likely brought about by recent admixture with surrounding agriculturist communities in the region. In addition, the Maniq exhibit one of the highest levels of genetic differentiation found among living human populations, indicative of their small population size and historical practice of endogamy. Similar to other hunter-gatherer populations of MSEA, we also find the Maniq to possess low levels of Neanderthal ancestry and undetectable levels of Denisovan ancestry. Altogether, we reveal the Maniq to be a Semang group that experienced intense genetic drift and exhibits signs of ancient Hòabìnhian ancestry.
Philippine Ayta possess the highest level of Denisovan ancestry in the world
Multiple lines of evidence show that modern humans interbred with archaic Denisovans. Here, we report an account of shared demographic history between Australasians and Denisovans distinctively in Island Southeast Asia. Our analyses are based on ∼2.3 million genotypes from 118 ethnic groups of the Philippines, including 25 diverse self-identified Negrito populations, along with high-coverage genomes of Australopapuans and Ayta Magbukon Negritos. We show that Ayta Magbukon possess the highest level of Denisovan ancestry in the world—∼30%–40% greater than that of Australians and Papuans—consistent with an independent admixture event into Negritos from Denisovans. Together with the recently described Homo luzonensis, we suggest that there were multiple archaic species that inhabited the Philippines prior to the arrival of modern humans and that these archaic groups may have been genetically related. Altogether, our findings unveil a complex intertwined history of modern and archaic humans in the Asia-Pacific region, where distinct Islander Denisovan populations differentially admixed with incoming Australasians across multiple locations and at various points in time.
Genomic insights into population history and biological adaptation in Oceania
The Pacific region is of major importance for addressing questions regarding human dispersals, interactions with archaic hominins and natural selection processes. However, the demographic and adaptive history of Oceanian populations remains largely uncharacterized. Here we report high-coverage genomes of 317 individuals from 20 populations from the Pacific region. We find that the ancestors of Papuan-related (‘Near Oceanian’) groups underwent a strong bottleneck before the settlement of the region, and separated around 20,000–40,000 years ago. We infer that the East Asian ancestors of Pacific populations may have diverged from Taiwanese Indigenous peoples before the Neolithic expansion, which is thought to have started from Taiwan around 5,000 years ago. Additionally, this dispersal was not followed by an immediate, single admixture event with Near Oceanian populations, but involved recurrent episodes of genetic interactions. Our analyses reveal marked differences in the proportion and nature of Denisovan heritage among Pacific groups, suggesting that independent interbreeding with highly structured archaic populations occurred. Furthermore, whereas introgression of Neanderthal genetic information facilitated the adaptation of modern humans related to multiple phenotypes (for example, metabolism, pigmentation and neuronal development), Denisovan introgression was primarily beneficial for immune-related functions. Finally, we report evidence of selective sweeps and polygenic adaptation associated with pathogen exposure and lipid metabolism in the Pacific region, increasing our understanding of the mechanisms of biological adaptation to island environments.
Multiple migrations to the Philippines during the last 50,000 years
Island Southeast Asia has recently produced several surprises regarding human history, but the region’s complex demography remains poorly understood. Here, we report ∼2.3 million genotypes from 1,028 individuals representing 115 indigenous Philippine populations and genome-sequence data from two ∼8,000-y-old individuals from Liangdao in the Taiwan Strait. We show that the Philippine islands were populated by at least five waves of human migration: initially by Northern and Southern Negritos (distantly related to Aus- tralian and Papuan groups), followed by Manobo, Sama, Papuan, and Cordilleran-related populations. The ancestors of Cordillerans diverged from indigenous peoples of Taiwan at least ∼8,000 y ago, prior to the arrival of paddy field rice agriculture in the Philippines ∼2,500 y ago, where some of their descendants remain to be the least admixed East Asian groups carrying an ancestry shared by all Austronesian-speaking populations. These observations contradict an exclusive “out-of-Taiwan” model of farming–language–people dispersal within the last four millennia for the Philippines and Island Southeast Asia. Sama-related ethnic groups of southwestern Philippines additionally experienced some minimal South Asian gene flow starting ∼1,000 y ago. Lastly, only a few lowlanders, accounting for <1% of all individuals, presented a low level of West Eurasian admixture, indicating a limited genetic legacy of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. Altogether, our findings reveal a multilayered history of the Philippines, which served as a crucial gateway for the movement of people that ultimately changed the genetic landscape of the Asia-Pacific region.