Genetic Chaos

Friday, March 31, 2006

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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