Scientists at the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School have created the world's most detailed genetic map.
A genetic map specifies the precise areas in the genetic material of a sperm or egg where the DNA from the mother and father has been reshuffled in order to produce this single reproductive cell. The biological process whereby this reshuffling occurs is known as "recombination."
While almost every genetic map built so far has been developed from people of European ancestry, this new map is the first constructed from African American recombination genomic data.
"This is the world's most accurate genetic map," said David Reich, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, who co-led the study with Simon Myers, a lecturer in the Department of Statistics at the University of Oxford.
The researchers were surprised to find that positions where recombination occurs in African Americans are significantly different from non-African populations.
"The landscape of recombination has shifted in African Americans compared with Europeans," said Anjali Hinch, first author and a post-graduate student at Oxford University's Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics.
Simon Myers added, "More than half of African Americans carry a version of the biological machinery for recombination that is different than Europeans. As a result, African Americans experience recombination where it almost never occurs in Europeans."
The findings have been detailed in Nature.