Genetic Chaos

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Strong Amerind/White Sex Bias and a Possible Sephardic Contribution among the Founders of a Population in Northwest Colombia

Historical and genetic evidences suggest that the recently founded population of Antioquia (Colombia) is potentially useful for the genetic mapping of complex traits. This population was established in the 16th-17th centuries through the admixture of Amerinds, Europeans, and Africans and grew in relative isolation until the late 19th century. To examine the origin of the founders of Antioquia, we typed 11 markers on the nonrecombining portion of the Y chromosome and four markers on mtDNA in a sample of individuals with confirmed Antioquian ancestry. The polymorphisms on the Y chromosome (five biallelic markers and six microsatellites) allow an approximation to the origin of founder men, and those on mtDNA identify the four major founder Native American lineages. These data indicate that 94% of the Y chromosomes are European, 5% are African, and 1% are Amerind. Y-chromosome data are consistent with an origin of founders predominantly in southern Spain but also suggest that a fraction came from northern Iberia and that some possibly had a Sephardic origin. In stark contrast with the Y-chromosome, 90% of the mtDNA gene pool of Antioquia is Amerind, with the frequency of the four Amerind founder lineages being closest to Native Americans currently living in the area. These results indicate a highly asymmetric pattern of mating in early Antioquia, involving mostly immigrant men and local native women. The discordance of our data with blood-group estimates of admixture suggests that the number of founder men was larger than that of women.

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Toward resolution of the debate regarding purported crypto-Jews in a Spanish-American population: Evidence from the Y chromosome

Background: The ethnic heritage of northernmost New Spain, including present-day northern New Mexico and southernmost Colorado, USA, is intensely debated. Local Spanish-American folkways and anecdotal narratives led to claims that the region was colonized primarily by secret- or crypto-Jews. Despite ethnographic criticisms, the notion of substantial crypto-Jewish ancestry among Spanish-Americans persists.

Aim: We tested the null hypothesis that Spanish-Americans of northern New Mexico carry essentially the same profile of paternally inherited DNA variation as the peoples of Iberia, and the relevant alternative hypothesis that the sampled Spanish-Americans possess inherited DNA variation that reflects Jewish ancestry significantly greater than that in present-day Iberia.

Subjects and Methods: We report frequencies of 19 Y-chromosome unique event polymorphism (UEP) biallelic markers for 139 men from across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, USA, who self-identify as ‘Spanish-American’. We used three different statistical tests of differentiation to compare frequencies of major UEP-defined clades or haplogroups with published data for Iberians, Jews, and other Mediterranean populations. We also report frequencies of derived UEP markers within each major haplogroup, compared with published data for relevant populations.

Results: All tests of differentiation showed that, for frequencies of the major UEP-defined clades, Spanish-Americans and Iberians are statistically indistinguishable. All other pairwise comparisons, including between Spanish-Americans and Jews, and Iberians and Jews, revealed highly significant differences in UEP frequencies.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that paternal genetic inheritance of Spanish-Americans is indistinguishable from that of Iberians and refute the popular and widely publicized scenario of significant crypto-Jewish ancestry of the Spanish-American population.

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