Genetic Chaos

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Genetic Legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in Extant Europeans: A Y Chromosome Perspective

A genetic perspective of human history in Europe was derived from 22 binary markers of the nonrecombining Y chromosome (NRY). Ten lineages account for >95% of the 1007 European Y chromosomes studied. Geographic distribution and age estimates of alleles are compatible with two Paleolithic and one Neolithic migratory episode that have contributed to the modern European gene pool. A significant correlation between the NRY haplotype data and principal components based on 95 protein markers was observed, indicating the effectiveness of NRY binary polymorphisms in the characterization of human population composition and history.

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AFRICANS AND ASIANS ABROAD: Genetic Diversity in Europe

Besides its obvious intrinsic value, knowledge of population history, and of the demographic and evolutionary changes that accompany it, has proven fundamental to address applied research in human genetics. In this review we place current European genetic diversity in the context of the global human genome diversity and review the evidence supporting a recent African origin of the Europeans. We then discuss the results and the interpretation of genetic studies attempting to quantify the relative importance of various gene flow processes, both within Europe and from Asia into Europe, focusing especially on the initial, Paleolithic colonization of the continent, and on later, Paleolithic postglacial and Neolithic dispersals. Finally, we discuss how knowledge of the patterns of genetic diversity in Europe, and of their inferred generating processes, can be extremely useful in planning health care and in biomedical research.

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