Genetic Chaos

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Levant versus the Horn of Africa: Evidence for Bidirectional Corridors of Human Migrations

Paleoanthropological evidence indicates that both the Levantine corridor and the Horn of Africa served, repeatedly, as migratory corridors between Africa and Eurasia. We have begun investigating the roles of these passageways in bidirectional migrations of anatomically modern humans, by analyzing 45 informative biallelic markers as well as 10 microsatellite loci on the nonrecombining region of the Y chromosome (NRY) in 121 and 147 extant males from Oman and northern Egypt, respectively. The present study uncovers three important points concerning these demic movements: (1) The E3b1-M78 and E3b3-M123 lineages, as well as the R1*-M173 lineages, mark gene flow between Egypt and the Levant during the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic. (2) In contrast, the Horn of Africa appears to be of minor importance in the human migratory movements between Africa and Eurasia represented by these chromosomes, an observation based on the frequency distributions of E3b*-M35 (no known downstream mutations) and M173. (3) The areal diffusion patterns of G-M201, J-12f2, the derivative M173 haplogroups, and M2 suggest more recent genetic associations between the Middle East and Africa, involving the Levantine corridor and/or Arab slave routes. Affinities to African groups were also evaluated by determining the NRY haplogroup composition in 434 samples from seven sub-Saharan African populations. Oman and Egypt’s NRY frequency distributions appear to be much more similar to those of the Middle East than to any sub-Saharan African population, suggesting a much larger Eurasian genetic component. Finally, the overall phylogeographic profile reveals several clinal patterns and genetic partitions that may indicate source, direction, and relative timing of different waves of dispersals and expansions involving these nine populations.

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Y chromosomal haplogroup J as a signature of the post-neolithic colonization of Europe

In order to attain a finer reconstruction of the peopling of southern and central-eastern Europe from the Levant, we determined the frequencies of eight lineages internal to the Y chromosomal haplogroup J, defined by biallelic markers, in 22 population samples obtained with a fine-grained sampling scheme. Our results partially resolve a major multifurcation of lineages within the haplogroup. Analyses of molecular variance show that the area covered by haplogroup J dispersal is characterized by a significant degree of molecular radiation for unique event polymorphisms within the haplogroup, with a higher incidence of the most derived sub-haplogroups on the northern Mediterranean coast, from Turkey westward; here, J diversity is not simply a subset of that present in the area in which this haplogroup first originated. Dating estimates, based on simple tandem repeat loci (STR) diversity within each lineage, confirmed the presence of a major population structuring at the time of spread of haplogroup J in Europe and a punctuation in the peopling of this continent in the post-Neolithic, compatible with the expansion of the Greek world. We also present here, for the first time, a novel method for comparative dating of lineages, free of assumptions of STR mutation rates.

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Genetic evidence of an early exit of Homo sapiens sapiens from Africa through eastern Africa

The out-of-Africa scenario has hitherto provided little evidence for the precise route by which modern humans left Africa. Two major routes of dispersal have been hypothesized: one through North Africa into the Levant, documented by fossil remains, and one through Ethiopia along South Asia, for which little, if any, evidence exists. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) can be used to trace maternal ancestry. The geographic distribution and variation of mtDNAs can be highly informative in defining potential range expansions and migration routes in the distant past. The mitochondrial haplogroup M, first regarded as an ancient marker of East-Asian origin, has been found at high frequency in India and Ethiopia, raising the question of its origin. (A haplogroup is a group of haplotypes that share some sequence variations.) Its variation and geographical distribution suggest that Asian haplogroup M separated from eastern-African haplogroup M more than 50,000 years ago. Two other variants (489C and 10873C) also support a single origin of haplogroup M in Africa. These findings, together with the virtual absence of haplogroup M in the Levant and its high frequency in the South-Arabian peninsula, render M the first genetic indicator for the hypothesized exit route from Africa through eastern Africa/western India. This was possibly the only successful early dispersal event of modern humans out of Africa.

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