Genetic Chaos

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Dual Origins of Finns Revealed by Y Chromosome Haplotype Variation

The Finnish population has often been viewed as an isolate founded 2,000 years ago via a route across the Gulf of Finland. The founding event has been characterized as involving a limited number of homogeneous founders, isolation, and subsequent rapid population growth. Despite the purported isolation of the population, levels of gene diversity for the Finns at autosomal and mitochondrial DNA loci are indistinguishable from those of other Europeans. Thus, mixed or dual origins for the Finns have been proposed. Here we present genetic evidence for the dual origins of Finns by evaluating the pattern of Y chromosome variation in 280 unrelated males from nine Finnish provinces. Phylogenetic analysis of 77 haplotype configurations revealed two major star-shaped clusters of Y haplotypes, indicative of a population expansion from two common Y haplotypes. Dramatic and quite significant differences in Y haplotype variation were observed between eastern and western regions of Finland, revealing contributions from different paternal types. The geographic distribution and time of expansion for the two common Y haplotypes correlate well with archeological evidence for two culturally and geographically distinct groups of settlers. Also, a northeastern to southwestern gradient of Y haplotype frequencies provides convincing evidence for recent male migration from rural areas into urban Finland.

PDF file

Phylogenetic Network of the mtDNA Haplogroup U in Northern Finland Based on Sequence Analysis of the Complete Coding Region by Conformation-Sensitive Gel Electrophoresis

Mutations in mtDNA have accumulated sequentially, and maternal lineages have diverged to form population-specific genotypes. Classification of the genotypes has been made based on differences found in restriction fragment analysis of the coding region or in the sequence of the hypervariable segment I. Both methods have shortcomings, as the former may not detect all the important polymorphisms and the latter makes use of a segment containing hypervariable nucleotide positions. Here, we have used conformation-sensitive gel electrophoresis (CSGE) to detect polymorphisms within the coding region of mtDNA from 22 Finns belonging to haplogroup U. Sixty-three overlapping PCR fragments covering the entire coding region were analyzed by CSGE, and the fragments that differed in their migration pattern were sequenced. CSGE proved to be a sensitive and specific method for identifying mtDNA substitutions. The phylogenetic network of the 22 coding-region sequences constituted a perfect tree, free of homoplasy, and provided several previously unidentified common polymorphisms characterizing subgroups of U. After contrasting this data with that of hypervariable segment I, we concluded that position 16192 seems to be prone to recurrent mutations and that position 16270 has experienced a back mutation. Interestingly, all 22 samples were found to belong to subcluster U5, suggesting that this subcluster is more frequent in Finns than in other European populations. Complete sequence data of the mtDNA yield a more reliable phylogenetic network and a more accurate classification of the haplogroups than previous ones. In medical genetics, such networks may help to decide between a rare polymorphism and a pathogenic mutation; in population genetics, the networks may enable more detailed analyses of population history and mtDNA evolution.

PDF file

Paternal and maternal DNA lineages reveal a bottleneck in the founding of the Finnish population

An analysis of Y-chromosomal haplotypes in several European populations reveals an almost monomorphic pattern in the Finns, whereas Y-chromosomal diversity is significantly higher in other populations. Furthermore, analyses of nucleotide positions in the mitochondrial control region that evolve slowly show a decrease in genetic diversity in Finns. Thus, relatively few men and women have contributed the genetic lineages that today survive in the Finnish population. This is likely to have caused the so-called "Finnish disease heritage" i.e., the occurrence of several genetic diseases in the Finnish population that are rare elsewhere. A preliminary analysis of the mitochondrial mutations that have accumulated subsequent to the bottleneck suggests that it occurred about 4000 years ago, presumably when populations using agriculture and animal husbandry arrived in Finland.

PDF file

Autosomal, Mitochondrial, and Y Chromosome DNA Variation in Finland: Evidence for a Male-Specific Bottleneck

The high prevalence of rare genetic diseases in Finland has been attributed to a founder effect some 2,000 years ago. However, this hypothesis has not been supported from mtDNA sequence and autosomal microsatellite data which indicate high levels of gene diversity. Here we have identified genetic evidence for a population bottleneck by examining variable microsatellite loci on the nonrecombining portion of Y chromosomes from Finland and four populations from Europe and the Americas. Sequence data from segment I of the control region (HVS-1) of mtDNA (360 bases) and 20 autosomal dinucleotide repeat markers were also analyzed. Partitions of genetic variance within and between populations revealed significant levels of Y-chromosome differentiation between populations. Phylogenetic and diversity analyses revealed divergent Finnish Y-haplotype clades and significantly lower Y-haplotype diversity among Finns as compared to other populations. Surprisingly, Finnish Y-haplotype diversity was even lower than the Native American populations. These results provide support for the Finnish bottleneck hypothesis. Evidence for two separate founding Finnish Y-chromosome lineages was also observed from the Y-chromosome phylogeny. A limited number of closely related founding males may have contributed to the low number of paternal lineages in the Finnish population. In contrast, high levels of genetic diversity for mtDNA and autosomal STRs may be the result of sex-biased gene flow and recent immigration to urban areas from established internal isolates within Finland.

PDF file

Mitochondrial DNA Polymerase W748S Mutation: A Common Cause of Autosomal Recessive Ataxia with Ancient European Origin

Mutations in the catalytic subunit of the mitochondrial DNA polymerase (POLG) have been found to be an important cause of neurological disease. Recently, we and collaborators reported a new neurodegenerative disorder with autosomal recessive ataxia in four patients homozygous for two amino acid changes in POLG: W748S in cis with E1143G. Here, we studied the frequency of this allele and found it to be among the most common genetic causes of inherited ataxia in Finland. We identified 27 patients with mitochondrial recessive ataxia syndrome (MIRAS) from 15 Finnish families, with a carrier frequency in the general population of 1 : 125. Since the mutation pair W748S+E1143G has also been described in European patients, we examined the haplotypes of 13 non-Finnish, European patients with the W748S mutation. Haplotype analysis revealed that all the chromosomes carrying these two changes, in patients from Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and Belgium, originate from a common ancient founder. In Finland and Norway, long, common, northern haplotypes, outside the core haplotype, could be identified. Despite having identical homozygous mutations, the Finnish patients with this adult- or juvenile-onset disease had surprisingly heterogeneous phenotypes, albeit with a characteristic set of features, including ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, dysarthria, mild cognitive impairment, involuntary movements, psychiatric symptoms, and epileptic seizures. The high carrier frequency in Finland, the high number of patients in Norway, and the ancient European founder chromosome indicate that this newly identified ataxia should be considered in the first-line differential diagnosis of progressive ataxia syndromes.

PDF file