Genetic Chaos

Monday, April 17, 2006

Different Genetic Components in the Ethiopian Population, Identified by mtDNA and Y-Chromosome Polymorphisms

Seventy-seven Ethiopians were investigated for mtDNA and Y-chromosome specific variations, in order to (1) define the different maternal and paternal components of the Ethiopian gene pool, (2) infer the origins of these maternal and paternal lineages and estimate their relative contributions, and (3) obtain information about ancient populations living in Ethiopia. The mtDNA was studied for the RFLPs relative to the six classical enzymes (HpaI, BamHI, HaeII, MspI, AvaII, and HincII) that identify the African haplogroup L and the Caucasoid haplogroups I and T. The sample was also examined at restriction sites that define the other Caucasoid haplogroups (H, U, V, W, X, J, and K) and for the simultaneous presence of the DdeI10394 and AluI10397 sites, which defines the Asian haplogroup M. Four polymorphic systems were examined on the Y chromosome: the TaqI/12f2 and the 49a,f RFLPs, the Y Alu polymorphic element (DYS287), and the sY81-A/G (DYS271) polymorphism. For comparison, the last two Y polymorphisms were also examined in 87 Senegalese previously classified for the two TaqI RFLPs. Results from these markers led to the hypothesis that the Ethiopian population (1) experienced Caucasoid gene flow mainly through males, (2) contains African components ascribable to Bantu migrations and to an in situ differentiation process from an ancestral African gene pool, and (3) exhibits some Y-chromosome affinities with the Tsumkwe San (a very ancient African group). Our finding of a high (20%) frequency of the "Asian" DdeI10394AluI10397 (++) mtDNA haplotype in Ethiopia is discussed in terms of the "out of Africa" model.

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Ethiopian Mitochondrial DNA Heritage: Tracking Gene Flow Across and Around the Gate of Tears

Approximately 10 miles separate the Horn of Africa from the Arabian Peninsula at Bab-el-Mandeb (the Gate of Tears). Both historic and archaeological evidence indicate tight cultural connections, over millennia, between these two regions. High-resolution phylogenetic analysis of 270 Ethiopian and 115 Yemeni mitochondrial DNAs was performed in a worldwide context, to explore gene flow across the Red and Arabian Seas. Nine distinct subclades, including three newly defined ones, were found to characterize entirely the variation of Ethiopian and Yemeni L3 lineages. Both Ethiopians and Yemenis contain an almost-equal proportion of Eurasian-specific M and N and African-specific lineages and therefore cluster together in a multidimensional scaling plot between Near Eastern and sub-Saharan African populations. Phylogeographic identification of potential founder haplotypes revealed that approximately one-half of haplogroup L0–L5 lineages in Yemenis have close or matching counterparts in southeastern Africans, compared with a minor share in Ethiopians. Newly defined clade L6, the most frequent haplogroup in Yemenis, showed no close matches among 3,000 African samples. These results highlight the complexity of Ethiopian and Yemeni genetic heritage and are consistent with the introduction of maternal lineages into the South Arabian gene pool from different source populations of East Africa. A high proportion of Ethiopian lineages, significantly more abundant in the northeast of that country, trace their western Eurasian origin in haplogroup N through assorted gene flow at different times and involving different source populations.

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Recovering the geographic origin of early modern humans by realistic and spatially explicit simulations

Most genetic and archeological evidence argue in favor of a recent and unique origin of modern humans in sub-Saharan Africa, but no attempt has ever been made at quantifying the likelihood of this model, relative to alternative hypotheses of human evolution. In this paper, we investigate the possibility of using multilocus genetic data to correctly infer the geographic origin of humans, and to distinguish between a unique origin (UO) and a multiregional evolution (ME) model. We introduce here an approach based on realistic simulations of the genetic diversity expected after an expansion process of modern humans into the Old World from different possible areas and their comparison to observed data. We find that the geographic origin of the expansion can be correctly recovered provided that a large number of independent markers are used, and that precise information on past demography and potential places of origins is available. In that case, it is also possible to unambiguously distinguish between a unique origin and a multiregional model of human evolution. Application to a real human data set of 377 STR markers tested in 22 populations points toward a unique but surprising North African origin of modern humans. We show that this result could be due to ascertainment bias in favor of markers selected to be polymorphic in Europeans. A new estimation modeling this bias explicitly reveals that East Africa is the most likely place of origin for modern humans.

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