Genetic Chaos

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Network Analyses of Y-Chromosomal Types in Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia Reveal Specific Patterns of Geographic Distribution

In a study of 908 males from Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, the variation of four Y-linked dinucleotide microsatellites was analyzed within three “frames” that are defined by mutations that are nonrecurrent, or nearly so. The rapid generation and extinction of new dinucleotide length variants causes the haplotypes within each lineage to diverge from one another. We constructed networks of “adjacent” haplotypes within each frame, by assuming changes of a single dinucleotide unit. Two small and six large networks were obtained, the latter including 94.9% of the sampled Y chromosomes. We show that the phenetic relationships among haplotypes, represented as a network, result largely from common descent and subsequent molecular radiation. The grouping of haplotypes of the same network thus fits an evolutionarily relevant criterion. Notably, this method allows the total diversity within a sample to be partitioned. Networks can be considered optimal markers for population studies, because reliable frequency estimates can be obtained in small samples. We present synthetic maps describing the incidence of different Y-chromosomal lineages in the extant human populations of the surveyed areas. Dinucleotide diversity also was used to infer time intervals for the coalescence of each network.

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