Novelty-seeking DRD4 polymorphisms are associated with human migration distance out-of-Africa after controlling for neutral population gene structure



Numerous lines of evidence suggest that Homo sapiens evolved as a distinct species in Africa by 150,000 years before the present (BP) and began major migrations out-of-Africa ∼50,000 BP. By 20,000 BP, our species had effectively colonized the entire Old World, and by 12,000 BP H. sapiens had a global distribution. We propose that this rapid migration into new habitats selected for individuals with low reactivity to novel stressors. Certain dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) polymorphisms are associated with low neuronal reactivity and increased exploratory behavior, novelty seeking, and risk taking, collectively considered novelty-seeking trait (NS). One previous report (Chen et al.: Evol Hum Behav 20 (1999) 309–324) demonstrated a correlation between migratory distance and the seven-repeat (7R) VNTR DRD4 allele at exon 3 for human populations. This study, however, failed to account for neutral genetic processes (drift and admixture) that might create such a correlation in the absence of natural selection. Furthermore, additional loci surrounding DRD4 are now recognized to influence NS. Herein we account for neutral genetic structure by modeling the nonindependence of neutral allele frequencies between human populations. We retest the DRD4 exon 3 alleles, and also test two other loci near DRD4 that are associated with NS. We conclude there is an association between migratory distance and DRD4 exon 3 2R and 7R alleles that cannot be accounted for by neutral genetic processes alone. Am J Phys Anthropol 145:382–389, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.