Evolutionary changes in enhancers are widely associated with variation in human traits and diseases. However, studies comprehensively quantifying levels of selection on enhancers at multiple evolutionary periods during recent human evolution and how enhancer evolution varies across human tissues are lacking. To address these questions, we integrated a dataset of 41,561 transcribed enhancers active in 41 different human tissues (FANTOM Consortium) with whole genome sequences of 1,668 individuals from the African, Asian, and European populations (1000 Genomes Project). Our analyses based on four different metrics (Tajima's , , H12, ) showed that ∼5.90% of enhancers showed evidence of recent positive selection and that genes associated with enhancers under very recent positive selection are enriched for diverse immune-related functions. The distributions of these metrics for brain and testis enhancers were often statistically significantly different and in the direction suggestive of less positive selection compared to those of other tissues; the same was true for brain and testis enhancers that are tissue-specific compared to those that are tissue-broad and for testis enhancers associated with tissue-enriched and non-tissue-enriched genes. These differences varied considerably across metrics and tissues and were generally in the form of changes in distributions' shapes rather than shifts in their values. Collectively, these results suggest that many human enhancers experienced recent positive selection throughout multiple time periods in human evolutionary history, that this selection occurred in a tissue-dependent and immune-related functional context, and that much like the evolution of their protein-coding gene counterparts, the evolution of brain and testis enhancers has been markedly different from that of enhancers in other tissues.
Copyright © 2019 Moon et al.