Genetic Chaos

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tracing European Founder Lineages in the Near Eastern mtDNA Pool

Founder analysis is a method for analysis of non-recombining DNA sequence data, with the aim of identification and dating of migrations into new territory. The method picks out founder sequence types in potential source populations and dates lineage clusters deriving from them in the settlement zone of interest. Here, using mtDNA, we apply the approach to the colonization of Europe, to estimate the proportion of modern lineages whose ancestors arrived during each major phase of settlement. To estimate the Palaeolithic and Neolithic contributions to European mtDNA diversity more accurately than was previously achievable, we have now extended the Near Eastern, European, and northern-Caucasus databases to 1,234, 2,804, and 208 samples, respectively. Both back-migration into the source population and recurrent mutation in the source and derived populations represent major obstacles to this approach. We have developed phylogenetic criteria to take account of both these factors, and we suggest a way to account for multiple dispersals of common sequence types. We conclude that (i) there has been substantial back-migration into the Near East, (ii) the majority of extant mtDNA lineages entered Europe in several waves during the Upper Palaeolithic, (iii) there was a founder effect or bottleneck associated with the Last Glacial Maximum, 20,000 years ago, from which derives the largest fraction of surviving lineages, and (iv) the immigrant Neolithic component is likely to comprise less than one-quarter of the mtDNA pool of modern Europeans.

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Phylogeographic Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA in the Nogays: A Strong Mixture of Maternal Lineages from Eastern and Western Eurasia

Analysis of mtDNA markers in a population of the Nogays (n = 206), the people inhabiting the North Caucasus and speaking a Turkic language of the Altaic linguistic family, has revealed a high level of genetic diversity (H = 0.99). The identified haplotypes include all major West Eurasian haplogroups, with the prevalence of H and U clusters (22 and 21%, respectively), but the percentage of lineages specific for East Eurasian populations is the highest (40%). Some other mtDNA variants in the Nogay population belong to the M1 haplogroups typical of northeastern Africa and U2 characteristic of Indian populations. Thus, components of different origin have contributed to the gene pool of Nogays.

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Estimating the impact of prehistoric admixture on the genome of Europeans

We inferred past admixture processes in the European population from genetic diversity at eight loci, including autosomal, mitochondrial and Y-linked polymorphisms. Admixture coefficients were estimated from multilocus data, assuming that most current populations can be regarded as the result of a hybridization process among four or less potential parental populations. Two main components are apparent in the Europeans' genome, presumably corresponding to the contributions of the first, Paleolithic Europeans, and of the early, Neolithic farmers dispersing from the Near East. In addition, only a small fraction of the European alleles seems to come from North Africa, and a fourth component reflecting gene flow from Northern Asia is largely restricted to the northeast of the continent. The estimated Near Eastern contribution decreases as one moves from east to west, in agreement with the predictions of a model in which (Neolithic) immigrants from the Near East contributed a large share of the alleles in the genome of current Europeans. Several tests suggest that probable departures from the admixture models, due to factors such as choice of the putative parental populations and more complex demographic scenarios, may have affected our main estimates only to a limited extent.

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Effects of Purifying and Adaptive Selection on Regional Variation in Human mtDNA

A phylogenetic analysis of 1125 global human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences permitted positioning of all nucleotide substitutions according to their order of occurrence. The relative frequency and amino acid conservation of internal branch replacement mutations was found to increase from tropical Africa to temperate Europe and arctic northeastern Siberia. Particularly highly conserved amino acid substitutions were found at the roots of multiple mtDNA lineages from higher latitudes. These same lineages correlate with increased propensity for energy deficiency diseases as well as longevity. Thus, specific mtDNA replacement mutations permitted our ancestors to adapt to more northern climates, and these same variants are influencing our health today.

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