Genetic Chaos

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

DNA diversity and population admixture in Anatolia

The Turkic language was introduced in Anatolia at the start of this millennium, by nomadic Turkmen groups from Central Asia. Whether that cultural transition also had significant population-genetics consequences is not fully understood. Three nuclear microsatellite loci, the hypervariable region I of the mitochondrial genome, six microsatellite loci of the Y chromosome, and one Alu insertion (YAP) were amplified and typed in 118 individuals from four populations of Anatolia. For each locus, the number of chromosomes considered varied between 51-200. Genetic variation was large within samples, and much less so between them. The contribution of Central Asian genes to the current Anatolian gene pool was quantified using three different methods, considering for comparison populations of Mediterranean Europe, and Turkic-speaking populations of Central Asia. The most reliable estimates suggest roughly 30% Central Asian admixture for both mitochondrial and Y-chromosome loci. That (admittedly approximate) figure is compatible both with a substantial immigration accompanying the arrival of the Turkmen armies (which is not historically documented), and with continuous gene flow from Asia into Anatolia, at a rate of 1% for 40 generations. Because a military invasion is expected to more deeply affect the male gene pool, similar estimates of admixture for female- and male-transmitted traits are easier to reconcile with continuous migratory contacts between Anatolia and its Asian neighbors, perhaps facilitated by the disappearance of a linguistic barrier between them.

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Geographic Variation in Human Mitochondrial DNA Control Region Sequence: The Population History of Turkey and its Relationship to the European Populations

The hypervariable segment I of the control region of the mtDNA (positions 16024-16383) was amplified from hair roots by PCR and sequenced in 45 unrelated individuals from Anatolia (Asian Turkey). Forty different sequences were found, defined by 56 variable positions, of which only one involves a transversion. The neighbor-joining tree of Kimura’s distance matrix for all sequences shows four main clusters. Cluster D was found to be the most statistically robust of the four, and all the sequences in it shared a mutation that is present only in European and West Asian populations. The variability in cluster D could have originated between 37,000 and 107,000 years ago. No branch is unexpectedly long, denoting the absence of sequences that diverged much before the others. The pairwise difference distribution is bell-shaped, in accordance with a population expansion occurring roughly 35,000 to 100,000 years ago. When compared to other Caucasoid populations through the pairwise difference distribution, there is a pattern from the Middle East (older expansion) to the various European populations, with Turkey in an intermediate position; when Turkish sequences are compared through a neighbor-joining tree on a genetic distance matrix of populations, this position is again evidenced. Although there is a very low level of genetic divergence among Caucasoid populations as shown by mtDNA control region sequences, a geographic pattern of genetic variation emerges, denoting a stepping-stone position of Turkey between the Middle East and Europe, which is in agreement with the hypothesis of a replacement of Neanderthals by modem humans, which could be related to the Upper Paleolithic cultural expansion.

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Excavating Y-chromosome haplotype strata in Anatolia

Analysis of 89 biallelic polymorphisms in 523 Turkish Y chromosomes revealed 52 distinct haplotypes with considerable haplogroup substructure, as exemplified by their respective levels of accumulated diversity at ten short tandem repeat (STR) loci. The major components (haplogroups E3b, G, J, I, L, N, K2, and R1; 94.1%) are shared with European and neighboring Near Eastern populations and contrast with only a minor share of haplogroups related to Central Asian (C, Q and O; 3.4%), Indian (H, R2; 1.5%) and African (A, E3*, E3a; 1%) affinity. The expansion times for 20 haplogroup assemblages was estimated from associated STR diversity. This comprehensive characterization of Y-chromosome heritage addresses many multifaceted aspects of Anatolian prehistory, including: (1) the most frequent haplogroup, J, splits into two sub-clades, one of which (J2) shows decreasing variances with increasing latitude, compatible with a northward expansion; (2) haplogroups G1 and L show affinities with south Caucasus populations in their geographic distribution as well as STR motifs; (3) frequency of haplogroup I, which originated in Europe, declines with increasing longitude, indicating gene flow arriving from Europe; (4) conversely, haplogroup G2 radiates towards Europe; (5) haplogroup E3b3 displays a latitudinal correlation with decreasing frequency northward; (6) haplogroup R1b3 emanates from Turkey towards Southeast Europe and Caucasia and; (7) high resolution SNP analysis provides evidence of a detectable yet weak signal (<9%) of recent paternal gene flow from Central Asia. The variety of Turkish haplotypes is witness to Turkey being both an important source and recipient of gene flow.

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The Topology of the Maternal Lineages of the Anatolian and Trans-Caucasus Populations and the Peopling of Europe: Some Preliminary Considerations

Here we discuss how our understanding of the peopling of Europe by modern humans may be improved by results which can be obtained in the investigation of genetic lineages of populations living in Anatolia and the Trans-Caucasus: Turks, Armenians, Georgians and Ossetes (Fig. 25.1). These four populations occupy a geographic area commonly believed to have great importance for the peopling of Europe. The present paper is directly related to our other paper in this volume (Kivisild et al.) which primarily addresses the genetics of Indian populations and our understanding of the first waves of migration of modern humans out of Africa and the peopling of Eurasia in general.

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