Genetic Chaos

Friday, March 31, 2006

Y chromosomal DNA variation in east Asian populations and its potential for inferring the peopling of Korea

We have examined variations of five polymorphic loci (DYS287, DXYS5Y, SRY465, DYS19, and DXYS156Y) on the Y chromosome in samples from a total of 1260 males in eight ethnic groups of East Asia. We found four unique haplotypes constructed from three biallelic markers in these samples of East Asians. The Japanese population was characterized by a relatively high frequency of either the haplotype I-2b (-/Y2/T) or II-1 (+/Y1/C). These dual patterns of the distribution of Y chromosomes (I-2b/II-1) were also found in Korea, although they were present at relatively low frequencies. The haplotype II-1 was present in Northeast Asian populations (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Mongolians) only, except for one male from the Thai population among the Southeast Asian populations (Indonesians, Philippines, Thais, and Vietnamese). The Japanese were revealed to have the highest frequency of this haplotype (27.5%), followed by Koreans (2.9%), Mongolians (2.6%), and mainland Chinese (2.2%). In contrast, the frequency of the haplotype I-2b was found to be 17.1% in the Japanese, 9.5% in Indonesian, 6.3% in Korean, 3.8% in Vietnamese, and 2.7% in Thai samples. These findings suggested that the chromosomes of haplotype I-2b were likely derived from certain areas of Northeast Asia, the region closest to Southeast Asia. Phylogenetic analysis using the neighbor-joining tree also reflected a general distinction between Southeast and Northeast Asian populations. The phylogeny revealed a closer genetic relationship between Japanese and Koreans than to the other surveyed Asian populations. Based on the result of the dual patterns of the haplotype distribution, it is more likely that the population structure of Koreans may not have evolved from a single ancient population derived from Northeast Asians, but through dual infusions of Y chromosomes entering Korea from two different waves of East Asians.

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Evolution and migration history of the Chinese population inferred from Chinese Y-chromosome evidence

Y-chromosomes from 76 Chinese men covering 33 ethnical minorities throughout China as well as the Han majority were collected as genetic material for the study of Chinese nonrecombinant Y-chromosome (NRY) phylogeny. Of the accepted worldwide NRY haplogroups, three (haplogroups D, C, O) were significant in this sample, extending previous assessments of Chinese genetic diversity. Based on geographic, linguistic, and ethnohistorical information, the 33 Chinese ethnical minorities in our survey were divided into the following four subgroups: North, Tibet, West, and South. Inferred from the distribution of the newfound immediate ancestor lineage haplogroup O*, which has M214 but not M175, we argue that the southern origin scenario of this most common Chinese Y haplogroup is not very likely. We tentatively propose a West/North-origin hypothesis, suggesting that haplogroup O originated in West/North China and mainly evolved in China and thence spread further throughout eastern Eurasia. The nested cladistic analysis revealed in detail a multilayered, multidirectional, and continuous history of ethnic admixture that has shaped the contemporary Chinese population. Our results give some new clues to the evolution and migration of the Chinese population and its subsequence moving about in this land, which are in accordance with the historical records.

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Y-Chromosome Evidence of Southern Origin of the East Asian–Specific Haplogroup O3-M122

The prehistoric peopling of East Asia by modern humans remains controversial with respect to early population migrations. Here, we present a systematic sampling and genetic screening of an East Asian–specific Y-chromosome haplogroup (O3-M122) in 2,332 individuals from diverse East Asian populations. Our results indicate that the O3-M122 lineage is dominant in East Asian populations, with an average frequency of 44.3%. The microsatellite data show that the O3-M122 haplotypes in southern East Asia are more diverse than those in northern East Asia, suggesting a southern origin of the O3-M122 mutation. It was estimated that the early northward migration of the O3-M122 lineages in East Asia occurred ~25,000–30,000 years ago, consistent with the fossil records of modern humans in East Asia.

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Recent Spread of a Y-Chromosomal Lineage in Northern China and Mongolia

We have identified a Y-chromosomal lineage that is unusually frequent in northeastern China and Mongolia, in which a haplotype cluster defined by 15 Y short tandem repeats was carried by 3.3% of the males sampled from East Asia. The most recent common ancestor of this lineage lived 590 ± 340 years ago (mean ± SD), and it was detected in Mongolians and six Chinese minority populations. We suggest that the lineage was spread by Qing Dynasty (16441912) nobility, who were a privileged elite sharing patrilineal descent from Giocangga (died 1582), the grandfather of Manchu leader Nurhaci, and whose documented members formed 0.4% of the minority population by the end of the dynasty.

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Dual origins of the Japanese: common ground for hunter-gatherer and farmer Y chromosomes

Historic Japanese culture evolved from at least two distinct migrations that originated on the Asian continent. Hunter-gatherers arrived before land bridges were submerged after the last glacial maximum (>12,000 years ago) and gave rise to the Jomon culture, and the Yayoi migration brought wet rice agriculture from Korea beginning ~2,300 years ago. A set of 81 Y chromosome single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was used to trace the origins of Paleolithic and Neolithic components of the Japanese paternal gene pool, and to determine the relative contribution of Jomon and Yayoi Y chromosome lineages to modern Japanese. Our global sample consisted of >2,500 males from 39 Asian populations, including six populations sampled from across the Japanese archipelago. Japanese populations were characterized by the presence of two major (D and O) and two minor (C and N) clades of Y chromosomes, each with several sub-lineages. Haplogroup D chromosomes were present at 34.7% and were distributed in a U-shaped pattern with the highest frequency in the northern Ainu and southern Ryukyuans. In contrast, haplogroup O lineages (51.8%) were distributed in an inverted U-shaped pattern with a maximum frequency on Kyushu. Coalescent analyses of Y chromosome short tandem repeat diversity indicated that haplogroups D and C began their expansions in Japan ~20,000 and ~12,000 years ago, respectively, while haplogroup O-47z began its expansion only ~4,000 years ago. We infer that these patterns result from separate and distinct genetic contributions from both the Jomon and the Yayoi cultures to modern Japanese, with varying levels of admixture between these two populations across the archipelago. The results also support the hypothesis of a Central Asian origin of Jomonese ancestors, and a Southeast Asian origin of the ancestors of the Yayoi, contra previous models based on morphological and genetic evidence.

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Multiple Origins of the mtDNA 9-bp Deletion in Populations of South India

The origins and genetic affinities of the more than 500 tribal populations living in South Asia are widely disputed. This may reflect differential contributions that continental populations have made to tribal groups in South Asia. We assayed for the presence of the intergenic COII/tRNALys 9-bp deletion in human mtDNAin 646 individuals from 12 caste and 14 tribal populations of South India and compared them to individuals from Africa, Europe, and Asia. The 9-bp deletion is observed in four South Indian tribal populations, the Irula, Yanadi, Siddi, and Maria Gond, and in the Nicobarese. Length polymorphisms of the 9-bp motif are present in the Santal, Khonda Dora, and Jalari, all of whom live in a circumscribed region on the eastern Indian coast. Phylogenetic analyses of mtDNA control region sequence from individuals with the 9-bp deletion indicate that it has arisen independently in some Indian tribal populations. Other 9-bp deletion haplotypes are likely to be of Asian and African origin, implying multiple origins of the 9-bp deletion in South India. These results demonstrate varying genetic affinities of different South Indian tribes to continental populations and underscore the complex histories of the tribal populations living in South Asia.

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Y-chromosome SNP haplotypes suggest evidence of gene flow among caste, tribe, and the migrant Siddi populations of Andhra Pradesh, South India

From observations of lack of haplotype sharing based on Y-chromosome specific short tandem repeat (STR) loci, previous reports suggested negligible gene flow among different geographic populations of India. Using Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) sites in combination with STRs, we observed evidence of haplotype sharing across caste-tribe boundaries in South India. We examined 27 SNPs in the non-recombining region of the Y chromosome to investigate gene flow in 204 individuals belonging to three caste groups (Vizag Brahmins, Peruru Brahmins, Kammas), three tribes (Bagata, Poroja, Valmiki) and an additional group (the Siddis) of African ancestry. Principal component and AMOVA analyses show that the between group component of variation is non-significant (P40.05), while that among populations within the caste and tribal groups is significant (P50.001). In particular, the Valmikis and Siddis are close to the caste groups. Of a total of 11 distinct SNP-haplotypes observed, the two tribal groups (Bagata and Poroja) lack the haplotypes H4, H4A, H5A and H16, which are seen in the caste groups. In contrast, all three tribal groups exhibit the Southeast Asian haplotype H11 that is absent in the caste populations. The presence of haplotypes H4, H5, H14, and H16 in the Siddis indicate that they have assimilated considerable non-African admixture. The evidence of haplotype sharing between castes and tribes is also found when the H14 lineage was further subdivided by five STR loci. We conclude that even though these SNP-based Y-haplotypes are able to distinguish the populations, gene flow in these South Indian populations is not as negligible as that inferred from other studies based on Y-specific short tandem repeat markers.

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Genetic structure of four socio-culturally diversified caste populations of southwest India and their affinity with related Indian and global groups


A large number of microsatellites have been extensively used to comprehend the genetic diversity of different global groups. This paper entails polymorphism at 15 STR in four predominant and endogamous populations representing Karnataka, located on the southwest coast of India. The populations residing in this region are believed to have received gene flow from south Indian populations and world migrants, hence, we carried out a detailed study on populations inhabiting this region to understand their genetic structure, diversity related to geography and linguistic affiliation and relatedness to other Indian and global migrant populations.


Various statistical analyses were performed on the microsatellite data to accomplish the objectives of the paper. The heretozygosity was moderately high and similar across the loci, with low average GST value. Iyengar and Lyngayat were placed above the regression line in the R-matrix analysis as opposed to the Gowda and Muslim. AMOVA indicated that majority of variation was confined to individuals within a population, with geographic grouping demonstrating lesser genetic differentiation as compared to linguistic clustering. DA distances show the genetic affinity among the southern populations, with Iyengar, Lyngayat and Vanniyar displaying some affinity with northern Brahmins and global migrant groups from East Asia and Europe.


The microsatellite study divulges a common ancestry for the four diverse populations of Karnataka, with the overall genetic differentiation among them being largely confined to intra-population variation. The practice of consanguineous marriages might have attributed to the relatively lower gene flow displayed by Gowda and Muslim as compared to Iyengar and Lyngayat. The various statistical analyses strongly suggest that the studied populations could not be differentiated on the basis of caste or spatial location, although, linguistic affinity was reflected among the southern populations, distinguishing them from the northern groups. Our study also indicates a heterogeneous origin for Lyngayat and Iyengar owing to their genetic proximity with southern populations and northern Brahmins. The high-ranking communities, in particular, Iyengar, Lyngayat, Vanniyar and northern Brahmins might have experienced genetic admixture from East Asian and European ethnic groups.

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Genetic Diversity Within a Caste Population of India as Measured by Y-Chromosome Haplogroups and Haplotypes: Subcastes of the Golla of Andhra Pradesh

The extent of population subdivision based on 15 Y-chromosome polymorphisms was studied in seven subcastes of the Golla (Karnam, Pokanati, Erra, Doddi, Punugu, Puja, and Kurava), who inhabit the Chittoor district of southern Andhra Pradesh, India. These Golla subcastes are traditionally pastoralists, culturally homogeneous and endogamous. DNA samples from 146 Golla males were scored for seven unique event polymorphisms (UEPs) and eight microsatellites, permitting allocation of each into haplogroups and haplotypes, respectively. Genetic diversity (D) was high (range, 0.9048–0.9921), and most of the genetic variance (>91%) was explained by intrapopulation differences. Median-joining network analysis of microsatellite haplotypes demonstrated an absence of any structure according to subcaste affiliation. Superimposition of UEPs on this phylogeny, however, did create some distinct clusters, indicating congruence between haplotype and haplogroup phylogenies. Our results suggest many male ancestors for the Golla as well as for each of the subcastes. Genetic distances among the seven subcastes, based on autosomal markers (short tandem repeats and human leukocyte antigens) as well as those on the chromosome Y, indicate that the Kurava may not be a true subcaste of the Golla. Although this finding is based on a very small Kurava sample, it is in accordance with ethnohistorical accounts related by community elders. The Punugu was the first to hive off the main Golla group, and the most recently separated subcastes (Karnam, Erra, Doddi, and Pokanati) fissioned from the Puja. This phylogeny receives support from the analysis of autosomal microsatellites as well as HLA loci in the same samples. In particular, there is a significant correlation (r = 0.8569; P = 0.0097) between Y-chromosome- and autosomal STR-based distances.

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A Synthesis of Haplogroup R2

The Y-chromosome R2 haplogroup is present mainly in the Indian sub-continent and a few locations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Because of its rare presence outside of India, there is not an abundance of facts on haplogroup R2. Nevertheless, geneticists are beginning to take an interest in R2. Even though more research is needed, there is a preliminary picture that is beginning to emerge, regarding the characteristics of haplogroup R2. Some academic papers and studies have made references to R2, thus allowing us to have a good amount of information on this little-known haplogroup. What follows is a summary of the facts already known and that have been published in various sources. The objective is to present the scientific data in a manner that is understandable for any audience, scientific and non-scientific alike.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Disease avoidance and ethnocentrism: the effects of disease vulnerability and disgust sensitivity on intergroup attitudes

Extending a model relating xenophobia to disease avoidance [Faulkner, J., Schaller, M., Park, J. H., & Duncan, L. A. (2004). Evolved disease-avoidance mechanisms and contemporary xenophobic attitudes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 7(4), 333–353.], we argue that both inter- and intragroup attitudes can be understood in terms of the costs and benefits of interacting with the in-group versus out-groups. In ancestral environments, interaction with members of the in-group will generally have posed less risk of disease transmission than interaction with members of an out-group, as individuals will have possessed antibodies to many of the pathogens present in the former, in contrast to those prevalent among the latter. Moreover, because coalitions are more likely among in-group members, the in-group would have been a potential source of aid in the event of debilitating illness. We conducted two online studies exploring the relationship between disease threat and intergroup attitudes. Study 1 found that ethnocentric attitudes increase as a function of perceived disease vulnerability. Study 2 found that in-group attraction increases as a function of disgust sensitivity, both when measured as an individual difference variable and when experimentally primed. We discuss these results with attention to the relationships among disease salience, out-group negativity, and in-group attraction.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Status of Austro-Asiatic groups in the peopling of India: An exploratory study based on the available prehistoric, linguistic and biological evidences

Among the most contentious currently debated issues is about the people who had settled first in the Indian subcontinent. It has been suggested that the communities affiliated to the Austro-Asiatic linguistic family are perhaps the first to settle in India and the palaeoanthropological evidences suggest the earliest settlement probably around 60,000 years BP. Recent speculations, based on both traditional genetic markers and DNA markers, seem to corroborate the aforesaid view. However, these studies are inadequate both in terms of the representation of the constituent groups within this broad linguistic category as well as the number of samples that represent each of them. We strongly feel that, before making any formidable conclusions on the peopling of India and/or the history of settlement, it is necessary to ascertain that the Austro-Asiatic speakers, represented by over 30 different tribal groups, either genetically constitute a homogenous single entity or are a heterogeneous conglomeration, derived from different sources. As a first step towards this we tried to collate and analyse the existing information – geographic, ethno-historic, cultural and biological. The results of the analyses of anthropometric and genetic marker data indicate that the Austro-Asiatic groups, particularly the Mundari speakers, with certain exceptions, show greater homogeneity among them when compared to the other linguistic groups, although certain groups show as outliers. However, traditional genetic markers show lower within population heterozygosity compared to Dravidian and other Indian populations. This is contrary to what has been claimed in case of certain DNA markers. Given that relatively greater heterozygosity among the Austro-Asiatic populations has been taken as one of the important evidences supporting greater antiquity of these populations one should await results of detailed DNA studies being currently undertaken by us, involving a number of Austro-Asiatic and other ethnic populations of India to resolve the issue unequivocally.

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A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios

Understanding the genetic origins and demographic history of Indian populations is important both for questions concerning the early settlement of Eurasia and more recent events, including the appearance of Indo-Aryan languages and settled agriculture in the subcontinent. Although there is general agreement that Indian caste and tribal populations share a common late Pleistocene maternal ancestry in India, some studies of the Y-chromosome markers have suggested a recent, substantial incursion from Central or West Eurasia. To investigate the origin of paternal lineages of Indian populations, 936 Y chromosomes, representing 32 tribal and 45 caste groups from all four major linguistic groups of India, were analyzed for 38 single-nucleotide polymorphic markers. Phylogeography of the major Y-chromosomal haplogroups in India, genetic distance, and admixture analyses all indicate that the recent external contribution to Dravidian- and Hindi-speaking caste groups has been low. The sharing of some Y-chromosomal haplogroups between Indian and Central Asian populations is most parsimoniously explained by a deep, common ancestry between
the two regions, with diffusion of some Indian-specific lineages northward. The Y-chromosomal data consistently suggest a largely South Asian origin for Indian caste communities and therefore argue against any major influx, from regions north and west of India, of people associated either with the development of agriculture or the spread of the Indo-Aryan language family. The dyadic Y-chromosome composition of Tibeto-Burman speakers of India, however, can be attributed to a recent demographic process, which appears to have absorbed and overlain populations who previously spoke Austro-Asiatic languages.

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