Table of Contents
International Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume 2011, Article ID 484769, 8 pages
Review Article

Molecular Adaptation of Modern Human Populations

State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology and Kunming Primate Research Centre, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650223, China

Received 11 October 2010; Accepted 14 December 2010

Academic Editor: Darren Curnoe

Copyright © 2011 Hong Shi and Bing Su. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Modern humans have gone through varied processes of genetic adaptations when their ancestors left Africa about 100,000 years ago. The environmental stresses and the social transitions (e.g., emergence of the Neolithic culture) have been acting as the major selective forces reshaping the genetic make-up of human populations. Genetic adaptations have occurred in many aspects of human life, including the adaptation to cold climate and high-altitude hypoxia, the improved ability of defending infectious diseases, and the polished strategy of utilizing new diet with the advent of agriculture. At the same time, the adaptations once developed during evolution may sometimes generate deleterious effects (e.g., susceptibility to diseases) when facing new environmental and social changes. The molecular (especially the genome-wide screening of genetic variations) studies in recent years have detected many genetic variants that show signals of Darwinian positive selection in modern human populations, which will not only provide a better understanding of human evolutionary history, but also help dissecting the genetic basis of human complex diseases.