Genetic Chaos

Monday, July 25, 2005

An mtDNA Analysis in Ancient Basque Populations: Implications for Haplogroup V as a Marker for a Major Paleolithic Expansion from Southwestern Europe

mtDNA sequence variation was studied in 121 dental samples from four Basque prehistoric sites, by high-resolution RFLP analysis. The results of this study are corroborated by (1) parallel analysis of 92 bone samples, (2) the use of controls during extraction and amplification, and (3) typing by both positive and negative restriction of the linked sites that characterize each haplogroup. The absence of haplogroup V in the prehistoric samples analyzed conflicts with the hypothesis proposed by Torroni et al., in which haplogroup V is considered as an mtDNA marker for a major Paleolithic population expansion from southwestern Europe, occurring ~10,000-15,000 years before the present (YBP). Our samples from the Basque Country provide a valuable tool for checking the previous hypothesis, which is based on genetic data from present-day populations. In light of the available data, the most realistic scenario to explain the origin and distribution of haplogroup V suggests that the mutation defining that haplogroup (4577 NlaIII) appeared at a time when the effective population size was small enough to allow genetic drift to act and that such drift is responsible for the heterogeneity observed in Basques, with regard to the frequency of haplogroup V (0%–20%). This is compatible with the attributed date for the origin of that mutation (10,000–15,000 YBP), because during the postglacial period (the Mesolithic, ~11,000 YBP) there was a major demographic change in the Basque Country, which minimized the effect of genetic drift. This interpretation does not rely on migratory movements to explain the distribution of haplogroup V in present-day Indo-European populations.

PDF file

MS205 Minisatellite Diversity in Basques: Evidence for a Pre-Neolithic Component

A number of studies have suggested that Basques might be a relic of Mesolithic Europeans who escaped much of the homogenization brought about by the Neolithic expansion. In an attempt to add new insights into this hypothesis, MS205 minisatellite diversity has been investigated by Minisatellite Variant Repeat (MVR) analysis in a sample of >100 autochthonous individuals from the Basque Country, along with 24 Castilian (N. Spain) and 23 individuals from the United Kingdom. These populations were examined in the context of the available world database for MS205 alleles. To deduce the similarities among populations, we have applied a phylogenetic approach that takes into account similarity between alleles. The variability of these populations seems to be a subset of the greater and presumably older African diversity, as has been suggested previously for non-Africans. Within non-Africans, Basques seem to cluster with other Northern European populations; however, some apparently Basque-specific alleles can be dated back to post-Aurignacian times, supporting the continuity of some lineages of this population since the Upper Paleolithic period.

PDF file

Recent Male-Mediated Gene Flow over a Linguistic Barrier in Iberia, Suggested by Analysis of a Y-Chromosomal DNA Polymorphism

We have examined the worldwide distribution of a Y-chromosomal base-substitution polymorphism, the T/C transition at SRY-2627, where the T allele defines haplogroup 22; sequencing of primate homologues shows that the ancestral state cannot be determined unambiguously but is probably the C allele. Of 1,191 human Y chromosomes analyzed, 33 belong to haplogroup 22. Twenty-nine come from Iberia, and the highest frequencies are in Basques (11%; n = 117) and Catalans (22%; n = 32). Microsatellite and minisatellite (MSY1) diversity analysis shows that non-Iberian haplogroup-22 chromosomes are not significantly different from Iberian ones. The simplest interpretation of these data is that haplogroup 22 arose in Iberia and that non-Iberian cases reflect Iberian emigrants. Several different methods were used to date the origin of the polymorphism: microsatellite data gave ages of 1,650, 2,700, 3,100, or 3,450 years, and MSY1 gave ages of 1,000, 2,300, or 2,650 years, although 95% confidence intervals on all of these figures are wide. The age of the split between Basque and Catalan haplogroup-22 chromosomes was calculated as only 20% of the age of the lineage as a whole. This study thus provides evidence for direct or indirect gene flow over the substantial linguistic barrier between the Indo-European and non-Indo-European speaking populations of the Catalans and the Basques, during the past few thousand years.

PDF file

The effect of the Neolithic expansion on European molecular diversity

We performed extensive and realistic simulations of the colonization process of Europe by Neolithic farmers, as well as their potential admixture and competition with local Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers. We find that minute amounts of gene flow between Palaeolithic and Neolithic populations should lead to a massive Palaeolithic contribution to the current gene pool of Europeans. This large Palaeolithic contribution is not expected under the demic diffusion (DD) model, which postulates that agriculture diffused over Europe by a massive migration of individuals from the Near East. However, genetic evidence in favour of this model mainly consisted in the observation of allele frequency clines over Europe, which are shown here to be equally probable under a pure DD or a pure acculturation model. The examination of the consequence of range expansions on single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) diversity reveals that an ascertainment bias consisting of selecting SNPs with high frequencies will promote the observation of genetic clines (which are not expected for random SNPs) and will lead to multimodal mismatch distributions. We conclude that the different patterns of molecular diversity observed for Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA can be at least partly owing to an ascertainment bias when selecting Y chromosome SNPs for studying European populations.

PDF file