Isolated populations are emerging as a powerful study design in the search for low-frequency and rare variant associations with complex phenotypes. Here we genotype 2,296 samples from two isolated Greek populations, the Pomak villages (HELIC-Pomak) in the North of Greece and the Mylopotamos villages (HELIC-MANOLIS) in Crete. We compare their genomic characteristics to the general Greek population and establish them as genetic isolates. In the MANOLIS cohort, we observe an enrichment of missense variants among the variants that have drifted up in frequency by more than fivefold. In the Pomak cohort, we find novel associations at variants on chr11p15.4 showing large allele frequency increases (from 0.2% in the general Greek population to 4.6% in the isolate) with haematological traits, for example, with mean corpuscular volume (rs7116019, P=2.3 × 10(-26)). We replicate this association in a second set of Pomak samples (combined P=2.0 × 10(-36)). We demonstrate significant power gains in detecting medical trait associations.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature communications

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Department of Human Genetics, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton CB10 1HH, UK.


Blood Cells, Humans, Cohort Studies, Social Isolation, Genetics, Population, Cell Size, Gene Frequency, Genetic Drift, Genotype, Haplotypes, Phenotype, Mutation, Missense, Adolescent, Population, Greece, Genetic Variation, Genome-Wide Association Study