Fernando Racimo, Joshua G Schraiber
Quantifying the proportion of polymorphic mutations that are deleterious or neutral is of fundamental importance to our understanding of evolution, disease genetics and the maintenance of variation genome-wide. Here, we develop an approximation to the distribution of fitness effects (DFE) of segregating single-nucleotide mutations in humans. Unlike previous methods, we do not assume that synonymous mutations are neutral or not strongly selected, and we do not rely on fitting the DFE of all new nonsynonymous mutations to a single probability distribution, which is poorly motivated on a biological level. We rely on a previously developed method that utilizes a variety of published annotations (including conservation scores, protein deleteriousness estimates and regulatory data) to score all mutations in the human genome based on how likely they are to be affected by negative selection, controlling for mutation rate. We map this score to a scale of fitness coefficients via maximum likelihood using diffusion theory and a Poisson random field model on SNP data. Our method serves to approximate the deleterious DFE of mutations that are segregating, regardless of their genomic consequence. We can then compare the proportion of mutations that are negatively selected or neutral across various categories, including different types of regulatory sites. We observe that the distribution of intergenic polymorphisms is highly peaked at neutrality, while the distribution of nonsynonymous polymorphisms is bimodal, with a neutral peak and a second peak at s ≈ −10^(−4). Other types of polymorphisms have shapes that fall roughly in between these two. We find that transcriptional start sites, strong CTCF-enriched elements and enhancers are the regulatory categories with the largest proportion of deleterious polymorphisms.