Supplementary Material for: The Evolutionary History of TLR4 Polymorphisms in Europe

Infections exert important evolutionary pressures shaping the human genome, especially on genes involved in host defense. A crucial step for host defense is recognition of pathogens by pattern recognition receptors on innate immune cells, among which Toll-like receptor 4 (<i>TLR4)</i> is one of the best known. Genetic variation in <i>TLR4</i> (Asp299Gly, Thr399Ile) has been recently described. Haplotype frequencies of these polymorphisms differ among African, Asian and European populations, suggesting evolutionary pressures exerted by local infections. The <i>TLR4</i> 299Gly/399Ile haplotype, characteristic mainly of European populations, has relatively high frequency in the Iberian peninsula. This region is also described as refuge area during the last glacial maximum 20,000 years ago, from which repopulation of Europe took place. We speculate that a genetic bottleneck in the Iberian peninsula could have promoted the increased frequency of this haplotype by genetic drift. This hypothesis is supported by three arguments: (1) the West-East gradient of prevalence in the haplotype among European populations; (2) ancient DNA from Neolithic burials in the Iberian peninsula, dated 6,600–4,500 years before present, confirmed the relatively high frequency of this haplotype in the region, and (3) no functional differences between this haplotype and wild-type <i>TLR4</i> have been found. In contrast, the disappearance of the 299Gly/399Thr haplotype in Europe is most likely due to negative selection due to sepsis. In conclusion, differences in distribution of <i>TLR4</i> polymorphisms Asp299Gly and Thr399Ile in European populations are most likely due to a combination of population migration events combined with selection due to sepsis.