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Cell. 2015 Oct 22;163(3):571-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.10.009. Epub 2015 Oct 22.

Early divergent strains of Yersinia pestis in Eurasia 5,000 years ago.

Author information

1
Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, Kemitorvet, Building 208, 2800 Kongens Lyngby, Denmark.
2
Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 5-7, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark.
3
Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden.
4
Section for Organismal Biology, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Thorvaldsensvej 40, 1871 Frederiksberg C, Denmark.
5
Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Department of Systems Biology, Technical University of Denmark, Kemitorvet, Building 208, 2800 Kongens Lyngby, Denmark; Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark.
6
Division of Armenology and Social Sciences, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences, 0025 Yerevan, Republic of Armenia.
7
Institute of History and Archaeology RAS (South Ural Department), South Ural State University, 454080 Chelyabinsk, Russia.
8
Orenburg Museum of Fine Arts, 460000 Orenburg, Russia.
9
Department of Archaeology and Ethnography, Yerevan State University, 0025 Yerevan, Republic of Armenia.
10
Department of Archaeology, University of Tartu, 51003 Tartu, Estonia.
11
Institute of Archaeology, University of Wrocław, 50-139 Wrocław, Poland.
12
Department of Evolutionary Biology, Estonian Biocentre and University of Tartu, 51010 Tartu, Estonia.
13
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) RAS, 199034 St. Petersburg, Russia.
14
Laboratory of Ethnogenomics, Institute of Molecular Biology, National Academy of Sciences, 0014 Yerevan, Armenia.
15
Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1QH, UK.
16
Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genetics, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3140, USA.
17
Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Øster Voldgade 5-7, 1350 Copenhagen, Denmark; Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK. Electronic address: ewillerslev@snm.ku.dk.

Abstract

The bacteria Yersinia pestis is the etiological agent of plague and has caused human pandemics with millions of deaths in historic times. How and when it originated remains contentious. Here, we report the oldest direct evidence of Yersinia pestis identified by ancient DNA in human teeth from Asia and Europe dating from 2,800 to 5,000 years ago. By sequencing the genomes, we find that these ancient plague strains are basal to all known Yersinia pestis. We find the origins of the Yersinia pestis lineage to be at least two times older than previous estimates. We also identify a temporal sequence of genetic changes that lead to increased virulence and the emergence of the bubonic plague. Our results show that plague infection was endemic in the human populations of Eurasia at least 3,000 years before any historical recordings of pandemics.

PMID:
26496604
PMCID:
PMC4644222
DOI:
10.1016/j.cell.2015.10.009
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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