On the apportionment of population structure

Yaron Granot, Omri Tal, Saharon Rosset, Karl Skorecki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Measures of population differentiation, such as FST, are traditionally derived from the partition of diversity within and between populations. However, the emergence of population clusters from multilocus analysis is a function of genetic structure (departures from panmixia) rather than of diversity. If the populations are close to panmixia, slight differences between the mean pairwise distance within and between populations (low FST) can manifest as strong separation between the populations, thus population clusters are often evident even when the vast majority of diversity is partitioned within populations rather than between them. For any given FST value, clusters can be tighter (more panmictic) or looser (more stratified), and in this respect higher FST does not always imply stronger differentiation. In this study we propose a measure for the partition of structure, denoted EST, which is more consistent with results from clustering schemes. Crucially, our measure is based on a statistic of the data that is a good measure of internal structure, mimicking the information extracted by unsupervised clustering or dimensionality reduction schemes. To assess the utility of our metric, we ranked various human (HGDP) population pairs based on FST and EST and found substantial differences in ranking order. EST ranking seems more consistent with population clustering and classification and possibly with geographic distance between populations. Thus, EST may at times outperform FST in identifying evolutionary significant differentiation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0160413
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2016


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