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1.  Ancient DNA from European Early Neolithic Farmers Reveals Their Near Eastern Affinities 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(11):e1000536.
The first farmers from Central Europe reveal a genetic affinity to modern-day populations from the Near East and Anatolia, which suggests a significant demographic input from this area during the early Neolithic.
In Europe, the Neolithic transition (8,000–4,000 b.c.) from hunting and gathering to agricultural communities was one of the most important demographic events since the initial peopling of Europe by anatomically modern humans in the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 b.c.). However, the nature and speed of this transition is a matter of continuing scientific debate in archaeology, anthropology, and human population genetics. To date, inferences about the genetic make up of past populations have mostly been drawn from studies of modern-day Eurasian populations, but increasingly ancient DNA studies offer a direct view of the genetic past. We genetically characterized a population of the earliest farming culture in Central Europe, the Linear Pottery Culture (LBK; 5,500–4,900 calibrated b.c.) and used comprehensive phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to locate its origins within the broader Eurasian region, and to trace potential dispersal routes into Europe. We cloned and sequenced the mitochondrial hypervariable segment I and designed two powerful SNP multiplex PCR systems to generate new mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal data from 21 individuals from a complete LBK graveyard at Derenburg Meerenstieg II in Germany. These results considerably extend the available genetic dataset for the LBK (n = 42) and permit the first detailed genetic analysis of the earliest Neolithic culture in Central Europe (5,500–4,900 calibrated b.c.). We characterized the Neolithic mitochondrial DNA sequence diversity and geographical affinities of the early farmers using a large database of extant Western Eurasian populations (n = 23,394) and a wide range of population genetic analyses including shared haplotype analyses, principal component analyses, multidimensional scaling, geographic mapping of genetic distances, and Bayesian Serial Simcoal analyses. The results reveal that the LBK population shared an affinity with the modern-day Near East and Anatolia, supporting a major genetic input from this area during the advent of farming in Europe. However, the LBK population also showed unique genetic features including a clearly distinct distribution of mitochondrial haplogroup frequencies, confirming that major demographic events continued to take place in Europe after the early Neolithic.
Author Summary
The transition from a hunter–gatherer existence to a sedentary farming-based lifestyle has had key consequences for human groups around the world and has profoundly shaped human societies. Originating in the Near East around 11,000 y ago, an agricultural lifestyle subsequently spread across Europe during the New Stone Age (Neolithic). Whether it was mediated by incoming farmers or driven by the transmission of innovative ideas and techniques remains a subject of continuing debate in archaeology, anthropology, and human population genetics. Ancient DNA from the earliest farmers can provide a direct view of the genetic diversity of these populations in the earliest Neolithic. Here, we compare Neolithic haplogroups and their diversity to a large database of extant European and Eurasian populations. We identified Neolithic haplotypes that left clear traces in modern populations, and the data suggest a route for the migrating farmers that extends from the Near East and Anatolia into Central Europe. When compared to indigenous hunter–gatherer populations, the unique and characteristic genetic signature of the early farmers suggests a significant demographic input from the Near East during the onset of farming in Europe.
PMCID: PMC2976717  PMID: 21085689
2.  Distinguishing the co-ancestries of haplogroup G Y-chromosomes in the populations of Europe and the Caucasus 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2012;20(12):1275-1282.
Haplogroup G, together with J2 clades, has been associated with the spread of agriculture, especially in the European context. However, interpretations based on simple haplogroup frequency clines do not recognize underlying patterns of genetic diversification. Although progress has been recently made in resolving the haplogroup G phylogeny, a comprehensive survey of the geographic distribution patterns of the significant sub-clades of this haplogroup has not been conducted yet. Here we present the haplogroup frequency distribution and STR variation of 16 informative G sub-clades by evaluating 1472 haplogroup G chromosomes belonging to 98 populations ranging from Europe to Pakistan. Although no basal G-M201* chromosomes were detected in our data set, the homeland of this haplogroup has been estimated to be somewhere nearby eastern Anatolia, Armenia or western Iran, the only areas characterized by the co-presence of deep basal branches as well as the occurrence of high sub-haplogroup diversity. The P303 SNP defines the most frequent and widespread G sub-haplogroup. However, its sub-clades have more localized distribution with the U1-defined branch largely restricted to Near/Middle Eastern and the Caucasus, whereas L497 lineages essentially occur in Europe where they likely originated. In contrast, the only U1 representative in Europe is the G-M527 lineage whose distribution pattern is consistent with regions of Greek colonization. No clinal patterns were detected suggesting that the distributions are rather indicative of isolation by distance and demographic complexities.
PMCID: PMC3499744  PMID: 22588667
Y-chromosome; haplogroup G; human evolution; population genetics
3.  A Predominantly Neolithic Origin for European Paternal Lineages 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(1):e1000285.
Most present-day European men inherited their Y chromosomes from the farmers who spread from the Near East 10,000 years ago, rather than from the hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic.
The relative contributions to modern European populations of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers from the Near East have been intensely debated. Haplogroup R1b1b2 (R-M269) is the commonest European Y-chromosomal lineage, increasing in frequency from east to west, and carried by 110 million European men. Previous studies suggested a Paleolithic origin, but here we show that the geographical distribution of its microsatellite diversity is best explained by spread from a single source in the Near East via Anatolia during the Neolithic. Taken with evidence on the origins of other haplogroups, this indicates that most European Y chromosomes originate in the Neolithic expansion. This reinterpretation makes Europe a prime example of how technological and cultural change is linked with the expansion of a Y-chromosomal lineage, and the contrast of this pattern with that shown by maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA suggests a unique role for males in the transition.
Author Summary
Arguably the most important cultural transition in the history of modern humans was the development of farming, since it heralded the population growth that culminated in our current massive population size. The genetic diversity of modern populations retains the traces of such past events, and can therefore be studied to illuminate the demographic processes involved in past events. Much debate has focused on the origins of agriculture in Europe some 10,000 years ago, and in particular whether its westerly spread from the Near East was driven by farmers themselves migrating, or by the transmission of ideas and technologies to indigenous hunter-gatherers. This study examines the diversity of the paternally inherited Y chromosome, focusing on the commonest lineage in Europe. The distribution of this lineage, the diversity within it, and estimates of its age all suggest that it spread with farming from the Near East. Taken with evidence on the origins of other lineages, this indicates that most European Y chromosomes descend from Near Eastern farmers. In contrast, most maternal lineages descend from hunter-gatherers, suggesting a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the cultural transition from hunting-gathering to farming.
PMCID: PMC2799514  PMID: 20087410
4.  When the Waves of European Neolithization Met: First Paleogenetic Evidence from Early Farmers in the Southern Paris Basin 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(4):e0125521.
An intense debate concerning the nature and mode of Neolithic transition in Europe has long received much attention. Recent publications of paleogenetic analyses focusing on ancient European farmers from Central Europe or the Iberian Peninsula have greatly contributed to this debate, providing arguments in favor of major migrations accompanying European Neolithization and highlighting noticeable genetic differentiation between farmers associated with two archaeologically defined migration routes: the Danube valley and the Mediterranean Sea. The aim of the present study was to fill a gap with the first paleogenetic data of Neolithic settlers from a region (France) where the two great currents came into both direct and indirect contact with each other. To this end, we analyzed the Gurgy 'Les Noisats' group, an Early/Middle Neolithic necropolis in the southern part of the Paris Basin. Interestingly, the archaeological record from this region highlighted a clear cultural influence from the Danubian cultural sphere but also notes exchanges with the Mediterranean cultural area. To unravel the processes implied in these cultural exchanges, we analyzed 102 individuals and obtained the largest Neolithic mitochondrial gene pool so far (39 HVS-I mitochondrial sequences and haplogroups for 55 individuals) from a single archaeological site from the Early/Middle Neolithic period. Pairwise FST values, haplogroup frequencies and shared informative haplotypes were calculated and compared with ancient and modern European and Near Eastern populations. These descriptive analyses provided patterns resulting from different evolutionary scenarios; however, the archaeological data available for the region suggest that the Gurgy group was formed through equivalent genetic contributions of farmer descendants from the Danubian and Mediterranean Neolithization waves. However, these results, that would constitute the most ancient genetic evidence of admixture between farmers from both Central and Mediterranean migration routes in the European Neolithization debate, are subject to confirmation through appropriate model-based approaches.
PMCID: PMC4415815  PMID: 25928633
5.  Ancient DNA Analysis of 8000 B.C. Near Eastern Farmers Supports an Early Neolithic Pioneer Maritime Colonization of Mainland Europe through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(6):e1004401.
The genetic impact associated to the Neolithic spread in Europe has been widely debated over the last 20 years. Within this context, ancient DNA studies have provided a more reliable picture by directly analyzing the protagonist populations at different regions in Europe. However, the lack of available data from the original Near Eastern farmers has limited the achieved conclusions, preventing the formulation of continental models of Neolithic expansion. Here we address this issue by presenting mitochondrial DNA data of the original Near-Eastern Neolithic communities with the aim of providing the adequate background for the interpretation of Neolithic genetic data from European samples. Sixty-three skeletons from the Pre Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) sites of Tell Halula, Tell Ramad and Dja'de El Mughara dating between 8,700–6,600 cal. B.C. were analyzed, and 15 validated mitochondrial DNA profiles were recovered. In order to estimate the demographic contribution of the first farmers to both Central European and Western Mediterranean Neolithic cultures, haplotype and haplogroup diversities in the PPNB sample were compared using phylogeographic and population genetic analyses to available ancient DNA data from human remains belonging to the Linearbandkeramik-Alföldi Vonaldiszes Kerámia and Cardial/Epicardial cultures. We also searched for possible signatures of the original Neolithic expansion over the modern Near Eastern and South European genetic pools, and tried to infer possible routes of expansion by comparing the obtained results to a database of 60 modern populations from both regions. Comparisons performed among the 3 ancient datasets allowed us to identify K and N-derived mitochondrial DNA haplogroups as potential markers of the Neolithic expansion, whose genetic signature would have reached both the Iberian coasts and the Central European plain. Moreover, the observed genetic affinities between the PPNB samples and the modern populations of Cyprus and Crete seem to suggest that the Neolithic was first introduced into Europe through pioneer seafaring colonization.
Author Summary
Since the original human expansions out of Africa 200,000 years ago, different prehistoric and historic migration events have taken place in Europe. Considering that the movement of the people implies a consequent movement of their genes, it is possible to estimate the impact of these migrations through the genetic analysis of human populations. Agricultural and husbandry practices originated 10,000 years ago in a region of the Near East known as the Fertile Crescent. According to the archaeological record this phenomenon, known as “Neolithic”, rapidly expanded from these territories into Europe. However, whether this diffusion was accompanied or not by human migrations is greatly debated. In the present work, mitochondrial DNA –a type of maternally inherited DNA located in the cell cytoplasm- from the first Near Eastern Neolithic populations was recovered and compared to available data from other Neolithic populations in Europe and also to modern populations from South Eastern Europe and the Near East. The obtained results show that substantial human migrations were involved in the Neolithic spread and suggest that the first Neolithic farmers entered Europe following a maritime route through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands.
PMCID: PMC4046922  PMID: 24901650
6.  Human Y chromosome haplogroup R-V88: a paternal genetic record of early mid Holocene trans-Saharan connections and the spread of Chadic languages 
Although human Y chromosomes belonging to haplogroup R1b are quite rare in Africa, being found mainly in Asia and Europe, a group of chromosomes within the paragroup R-P25* are found concentrated in the central-western part of the African continent, where they can be detected at frequencies as high as 95%. Phylogenetic evidence and coalescence time estimates suggest that R-P25* chromosomes (or their phylogenetic ancestor) may have been carried to Africa by an Asia-to-Africa back migration in prehistoric times. Here, we describe six new mutations that define the relationships among the African R-P25* Y chromosomes and between these African chromosomes and earlier reported R-P25 Eurasian sub-lineages. The incorporation of these new mutations into a phylogeny of the R1b haplogroup led to the identification of a new clade (R1b1a or R-V88) encompassing all the African R-P25* and about half of the few European/west Asian R-P25* chromosomes. A worldwide phylogeographic analysis of the R1b haplogroup provided strong support to the Asia-to-Africa back-migration hypothesis. The analysis of the distribution of the R-V88 haplogroup in >1800 males from 69 African populations revealed a striking genetic contiguity between the Chadic-speaking peoples from the central Sahel and several other Afroasiatic-speaking groups from North Africa. The R-V88 coalescence time was estimated at 9200–5600 kya, in the early mid Holocene. We suggest that R-V88 is a paternal genetic record of the proposed mid-Holocene migration of proto-Chadic Afroasiatic speakers through the Central Sahara into the Lake Chad Basin, and geomorphological evidence is consistent with this view.
PMCID: PMC2987365  PMID: 20051990
Y chromosome haplogroups; human migrations; Holocene; Africa; Chadic-speaking populations
7.  Separating the post-Glacial coancestry of European and Asian Y chromosomes within haplogroup R1a 
Human Y-chromosome haplogroup structure is largely circumscribed by continental boundaries. One notable exception to this general pattern is the young haplogroup R1a that exhibits post-Glacial coalescent times and relates the paternal ancestry of more than 10% of men in a wide geographic area extending from South Asia to Central East Europe and South Siberia. Its origin and dispersal patterns are poorly understood as no marker has yet been described that would distinguish European R1a chromosomes from Asian. Here we present frequency and haplotype diversity estimates for more than 2000 R1a chromosomes assessed for several newly discovered SNP markers that introduce the onset of informative R1a subdivisions by geography. Marker M434 has a low frequency and a late origin in West Asia bearing witness to recent gene flow over the Arabian Sea. Conversely, marker M458 has a significant frequency in Europe, exceeding 30% in its core area in Eastern Europe and comprising up to 70% of all M17 chromosomes present there. The diversity and frequency profiles of M458 suggest its origin during the early Holocene and a subsequent expansion likely related to a number of prehistoric cultural developments in the region. Its primary frequency and diversity distribution correlates well with some of the major Central and East European river basins where settled farming was established before its spread further eastward. Importantly, the virtual absence of M458 chromosomes outside Europe speaks against substantial patrilineal gene flow from East Europe to Asia, including to India, at least since the mid-Holocene.
PMCID: PMC2987245  PMID: 19888303
Y chromosome; haplogroup R1a; human evolution; population genetics
8.  New Population and Phylogenetic Features of the Internal Variation within Mitochondrial DNA Macro-Haplogroup R0 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(4):e5112.
R0 embraces the most common mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lineage in West Eurasia, namely, haplogroup H (∼40%). R0 sub-lineages are badly defined in the control region and therefore, the analysis of diagnostic coding region polymorphisms is needed in order to gain resolution in population and medical studies.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sequenced the first hypervariable segment (HVS-I) of 518 individuals from different North Iberian regions. The mtDNAs belonging to R0 (∼57%) were further genotyped for a set of 71 coding region SNPs characterizing major and minor branches of R0. We found that the North Iberian Peninsula shows moderate levels of population stratification; for instance, haplogroup V reaches the highest frequency in Cantabria (north-central Iberia), but lower in Galicia (northwest Iberia) and Catalonia (northeast Iberia). When compared to other European and Middle East populations, haplogroups H1, H3 and H5a show frequency peaks in the Franco-Cantabrian region, declining from West towards the East and South Europe. In addition, we have characterized, by way of complete genome sequencing, a new autochthonous clade of haplogroup H in the Basque country, named H2a5. Its coalescence age, 15.6±8 thousand years ago (kya), dates to the period immediately after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).
In contrast to other H lineages that experienced re-expansion outside the Franco-Cantabrian refuge after the LGM (e.g. H1 and H3), H2a5 most likely remained confined to this area till present days.
PMCID: PMC2660437  PMID: 19340307
9.  Introducing the Algerian Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Profiles into the North African Landscape 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56775.
North Africa is considered a distinct geographic and ethnic entity within Africa. Although modern humans originated in this Continent, studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome genealogical markers provide evidence that the North African gene pool has been shaped by the back-migration of several Eurasian lineages in Paleolithic and Neolithic times. More recent influences from sub-Saharan Africa and Mediterranean Europe are also evident. The presence of East-West and North-South haplogroup frequency gradients strongly reinforces the genetic complexity of this region. However, this genetic scenario is beset with a notable gap, which is the lack of consistent information for Algeria, the largest country in the Maghreb. To fill this gap, we analyzed a sample of 240 unrelated subjects from a northwest Algeria cosmopolitan population using mtDNA sequences and Y-chromosome biallelic polymorphisms, focusing on the fine dissection of haplogroups E and R, which are the most prevalent in North Africa and Europe respectively. The Eurasian component in Algeria reached 80% for mtDNA and 90% for Y-chromosome. However, within them, the North African genetic component for mtDNA (U6 and M1; 20%) is significantly smaller than the paternal (E-M81 and E-V65; 70%). The unexpected presence of the European-derived Y-chromosome lineages R-M412, R-S116, R-U152 and R-M529 in Algeria and the rest of the Maghreb could be the counterparts of the mtDNA H1, H3 and V subgroups, pointing to direct maritime contacts between the European and North African sides of the western Mediterranean. Female influx of sub-Saharan Africans into Algeria (20%) is also significantly greater than the male (10%). In spite of these sexual asymmetries, the Algerian uniparental profiles faithfully correlate between each other and with the geography.
PMCID: PMC3576335  PMID: 23431392
10.  The phylogenetic and geographic structure of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a 
R1a-M420 is one of the most widely spread Y-chromosome haplogroups; however, its substructure within Europe and Asia has remained poorly characterized. Using a panel of 16 244 male subjects from 126 populations sampled across Eurasia, we identified 2923 R1a-M420 Y-chromosomes and analyzed them to a highly granular phylogeographic resolution. Whole Y-chromosome sequence analysis of eight R1a and five R1b individuals suggests a divergence time of ∼25 000 (95% CI: 21 300–29 000) years ago and a coalescence time within R1a-M417 of ∼5800 (95% CI: 4800–6800) years. The spatial frequency distributions of R1a sub-haplogroups conclusively indicate two major groups, one found primarily in Europe and the other confined to Central and South Asia. Beyond the major European versus Asian dichotomy, we describe several younger sub-haplogroups. Based on spatial distributions and diversity patterns within the R1a-M420 clade, particularly rare basal branches detected primarily within Iran and eastern Turkey, we conclude that the initial episodes of haplogroup R1a diversification likely occurred in the vicinity of present-day Iran.
PMCID: PMC4266736  PMID: 24667786
11.  Autosomal and uniparental portraits of the native populations of Sakha (Yakutia): implications for the peopling of Northeast Eurasia 
Sakha – an area connecting South and Northeast Siberia – is significant for understanding the history of peopling of Northeast Eurasia and the Americas. Previous studies have shown a genetic contiguity between Siberia and East Asia and the key role of South Siberia in the colonization of Siberia.
We report the results of a high-resolution phylogenetic analysis of 701 mtDNAs and 318 Y chromosomes from five native populations of Sakha (Yakuts, Evenks, Evens, Yukaghirs and Dolgans) and of the analysis of more than 500,000 autosomal SNPs of 758 individuals from 55 populations, including 40 previously unpublished samples from Siberia. Phylogenetically terminal clades of East Asian mtDNA haplogroups C and D and Y-chromosome haplogroups N1c, N1b and C3, constituting the core of the gene pool of the native populations from Sakha, connect Sakha and South Siberia. Analysis of autosomal SNP data confirms the genetic continuity between Sakha and South Siberia. Maternal lineages D5a2a2, C4a1c, C4a2, C5b1b and the Yakut-specific STR sub-clade of Y-chromosome haplogroup N1c can be linked to a migration of Yakut ancestors, while the paternal lineage C3c was most likely carried to Sakha by the expansion of the Tungusic people. MtDNA haplogroups Z1a1b and Z1a3, present in Yukaghirs, Evens and Dolgans, show traces of different and probably more ancient migration(s). Analysis of both haploid loci and autosomal SNP data revealed only minor genetic components shared between Sakha and the extreme Northeast Siberia. Although the major part of West Eurasian maternal and paternal lineages in Sakha could originate from recent admixture with East Europeans, mtDNA haplogroups H8, H20a and HV1a1a, as well as Y-chromosome haplogroup J, more probably reflect an ancient gene flow from West Eurasia through Central Asia and South Siberia.
Our high-resolution phylogenetic dissection of mtDNA and Y-chromosome haplogroups as well as analysis of autosomal SNP data suggests that Sakha was colonized by repeated expansions from South Siberia with minor gene flow from the Lower Amur/Southern Okhotsk region and/or Kamchatka. The minor West Eurasian component in Sakha attests to both recent and ongoing admixture with East Europeans and an ancient gene flow from West Eurasia.
PMCID: PMC3695835  PMID: 23782551
mtDNA; Y chromosome; Autosomal SNPs; Sakha
12.  The Origins of Lactase Persistence in Europe 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(8):e1000491.
Lactase persistence (LP) is common among people of European ancestry, but with the exception of some African, Middle Eastern and southern Asian groups, is rare or absent elsewhere in the world. Lactase gene haplotype conservation around a polymorphism strongly associated with LP in Europeans (−13,910 C/T) indicates that the derived allele is recent in origin and has been subject to strong positive selection. Furthermore, ancient DNA work has shown that the −13,910*T (derived) allele was very rare or absent in early Neolithic central Europeans. It is unlikely that LP would provide a selective advantage without a supply of fresh milk, and this has lead to a gene-culture coevolutionary model where lactase persistence is only favoured in cultures practicing dairying, and dairying is more favoured in lactase persistent populations. We have developed a flexible demic computer simulation model to explore the spread of lactase persistence, dairying, other subsistence practices and unlinked genetic markers in Europe and western Asia's geographic space. Using data on −13,910*T allele frequency and farming arrival dates across Europe, and approximate Bayesian computation to estimate parameters of interest, we infer that the −13,910*T allele first underwent selection among dairying farmers around 7,500 years ago in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe, possibly in association with the dissemination of the Neolithic Linearbandkeramik culture over Central Europe. Furthermore, our results suggest that natural selection favouring a lactase persistence allele was not higher in northern latitudes through an increased requirement for dietary vitamin D. Our results provide a coherent and spatially explicit picture of the coevolution of lactase persistence and dairying in Europe.
Author Summary
Most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase and so are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose. However, most people in Europe and many from other populations continue to produce lactase throughout their life (lactase persistence). In Europe, a single genetic variant, −13,910*T, is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have been favoured by natural selection in the last 10,000 years. Since adult consumption of fresh milk was only possible after the domestication of animals, it is likely that lactase persistence coevolved with the cultural practice of dairying, although it is not known when lactase persistence first arose in Europe or what factors drove its rapid spread. To address these questions, we have developed a simulation model of the spread of lactase persistence, dairying, and farmers in Europe, and have integrated genetic and archaeological data using newly developed statistical approaches. We infer that lactase persistence/dairying coevolution began around 7,500 years ago between the central Balkans and central Europe, probably among people of the Linearbandkeramik culture. We also find that lactase persistence was not more favoured in northern latitudes through an increased requirement for dietary vitamin D. Our results illustrate the possibility of integrating genetic and archaeological data to address important questions on human evolution.
PMCID: PMC2722739  PMID: 19714206
13.  A Comparison of Y-Chromosome Variation in Sardinia and Anatolia Is More Consistent with Cultural Rather than Demic Diffusion of Agriculture 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10419.
Two alternative models have been proposed to explain the spread of agriculture in Europe during the Neolithic period. The demic diffusion model postulates the spreading of farmers from the Middle East along a Southeast to Northeast axis. Conversely, the cultural diffusion model assumes transmission of agricultural techniques without substantial movements of people. Support for the demic model derives largely from the observation of frequency gradients among some genetic variants, in particular haplogroups defined by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the Y-chromosome. A recent network analysis of the R-M269 Y chromosome lineage has purportedly corroborated Neolithic expansion from Anatolia, the site of diffusion of agriculture. However, the data are still controversial and the analyses so far performed are prone to a number of biases. In the present study we show that the addition of a single marker, DYSA7.2, dramatically changes the shape of the R-M269 network into a topology showing a clear Western-Eastern dichotomy not consistent with a radial diffusion of people from the Middle East. We have also assessed other Y-chromosome haplogroups proposed to be markers of the Neolithic diffusion of farmers and compared their intra-lineage variation—defined by short tandem repeats (STRs)—in Anatolia and in Sardinia, the only Western population where these lineages are present at appreciable frequencies and where there is substantial archaeological and genetic evidence of pre-Neolithic human occupation. The data indicate that Sardinia does not contain a subset of the variability present in Anatolia and that the shared variability between these populations is best explained by an earlier, pre-Neolithic dispersal of haplogroups from a common ancestral gene pool. Overall, these results are consistent with the cultural diffusion and do not support the demic model of agriculture diffusion.
PMCID: PMC2861676  PMID: 20454687
14.  Fine Dissection of Human Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup HV Lineages Reveals Paleolithic Signatures from European Glacial Refugia 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(12):e0144391.
Genetic signatures from the Paleolithic inhabitants of Eurasia can be traced from the early divergent mitochondrial DNA lineages still present in contemporary human populations. Previous studies already suggested a pre-Neolithic diffusion of mitochondrial haplogroup HV*(xH,V) lineages, a relatively rare class of mtDNA types that includes parallel branches mainly distributed across Europe and West Asia with a certain degree of structure. Up till now, variation within haplogroup HV was addressed mainly by analyzing sequence data from the mtDNA control region, except for specific sub-branches, such as HV4 or the widely distributed haplogroups H and V. In this study, we present a revised HV topology based on full mtDNA genome data, and we include a comprehensive dataset consisting of 316 complete mtDNA sequences including 60 new samples from the Italian peninsula, a previously underrepresented geographic area. We highlight points of instability in the particular topology of this haplogroup, reconstructed with BEAST-generated trees and networks. We also confirm a major lineage expansion that probably followed the Late Glacial Maximum and preceded Neolithic population movements. We finally observe that Italy harbors a reservoir of mtDNA diversity, with deep-rooting HV lineages often related to sequences present in the Caucasus and the Middle East. The resulting hypothesis of a glacial refugium in Southern Italy has implications for the understanding of late Paleolithic population movements and is discussed within the archaeological cultural shifts occurred over the entire continent.
PMCID: PMC4671665  PMID: 26640946
15.  Mitochondrial Haplogroup H1 in North Africa: An Early Holocene Arrival from Iberia 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13378.
The Tuareg of the Fezzan region (Libya) are characterized by an extremely high frequency (61%) of haplogroup H1, a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup that is common in all Western European populations. To define how and when H1 spread from Europe to North Africa up to the Central Sahara, in Fezzan, we investigated the complete mitochondrial genomes of eleven Libyan Tuareg belonging to H1. Coalescence time estimates suggest an arrival of the European H1 mtDNAs at about 8,000–9,000 years ago, while phylogenetic analyses reveal three novel H1 branches, termed H1v, H1w and H1x, which appear to be specific for North African populations, but whose frequencies can be extremely different even in relatively close Tuareg villages. Overall, these findings support the scenario of an arrival of haplogroup H1 in North Africa from Iberia at the beginning of the Holocene, as a consequence of the improvement in climate conditions after the Younger Dryas cold snap, followed by in situ formation of local H1 sub-haplogroups. This process of autochthonous differentiation continues in the Libyan Tuareg who, probably due to isolation and recent founder events, are characterized by village-specific maternal mtDNA lineages.
PMCID: PMC2958834  PMID: 20975840
16.  The peopling of Europe and the cautionary tale of Y chromosome lineage R-M269 
Recently, the debate on the origins of the major European Y chromosome haplogroup R1b1b2-M269 has reignited, and opinion has moved away from Palaeolithic origins to the notion of a younger Neolithic spread of these chromosomes from the Near East. Here, we address this debate by investigating frequency patterns and diversity in the largest collection of R1b1b2-M269 chromosomes yet assembled. Our analysis reveals no geographical trends in diversity, in contradiction to expectation under the Neolithic hypothesis, and suggests an alternative explanation for the apparent cline in diversity recently described. We further investigate the young, STR-based time to the most recent common ancestor estimates proposed so far for R-M269-related lineages and find evidence for an appreciable effect of microsatellite choice on age estimates. As a consequence, the existing data and tools are insufficient to make credible estimates for the age of this haplogroup, and conclusions about the timing of its origin and dispersal should be viewed with a large degree of caution.
PMCID: PMC3259916  PMID: 21865258
Y-STRs; R1b1b2-M269; neolithic hypothesis; average squared distance
17.  The emergence of Y-chromosome haplogroup J1e among Arabic-speaking populations 
Haplogroup J1 is a prevalent Y-chromosome lineage within the Near East. We report the frequency and YSTR diversity data for its major sub-clade (J1e). The overall expansion time estimated from 453 chromosomes is 10 000 years. Moreover, the previously described J1 (DYS388=13) chromosomes, frequently found in the Caucasus and eastern Anatolian populations, were ancestral to J1e and displayed an expansion time of 9000 years. For J1e, the Zagros/Taurus mountain region displays the highest haplotype diversity, although the J1e frequency increases toward the peripheral Arabian Peninsula. The southerly pattern of decreasing expansion time estimates is consistent with the serial drift and founder effect processes. The first such migration is predicted to have occurred at the onset of the Neolithic, and accordingly J1e parallels the establishment of rain-fed agriculture and semi-nomadic herders throughout the Fertile Crescent. Subsequently, J1e lineages might have been involved in episodes of the expansion of pastoralists into arid habitats coinciding with the spread of Arabic and other Semitic-speaking populations.
PMCID: PMC2987219  PMID: 19826455
Y-chromosome haplogroup J1e; Neolithic; Arabic languages; pastoralism
18.  Divorcing the Late Upper Palaeolithic demographic histories of mtDNA haplogroups M1 and U6 in Africa 
A Southwest Asian origin and dispersal to North Africa in the Early Upper Palaeolithic era has been inferred in previous studies for mtDNA haplogroups M1 and U6. Both haplogroups have been proposed to show similar geographic patterns and shared demographic histories.
We report here 24 M1 and 33 U6 new complete mtDNA sequences that allow us to refine the existing phylogeny of these haplogroups. The resulting phylogenetic information was used to genotype a further 131 M1 and 91 U6 samples to determine the geographic spread of their sub-clades. No southwest Asian specific clades for M1 or U6 were discovered. U6 and M1 frequencies in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe do not follow similar patterns, and their sub-clade divisions do not appear to be compatible with their shared history reaching back to the Early Upper Palaeolithic. The Bayesian Skyline Plots testify to non-overlapping phases of expansion, and the haplogroups’ phylogenies suggest that there are U6 sub-clades that expanded earlier than those in M1. Some M1 and U6 sub-clades could be linked with certain events. For example, U6a1 and M1b, with their coalescent ages of ~20,000–22,000 years ago and earliest inferred expansion in northwest Africa, could coincide with the flourishing of the Iberomaurusian industry, whilst U6b and M1b1 appeared at the time of the Capsian culture.
Our high-resolution phylogenetic dissection of both haplogroups and coalescent time assessments suggest that the extant main branching pattern of both haplogroups arose and diversified in the mid-later Upper Palaeolithic, with some sub-clades concomitantly with the expansion of the Iberomaurusian industry. Carriers of these maternal lineages have been later absorbed into and diversified further during the spread of Afro-Asiatic languages in North and East Africa.
PMCID: PMC3582464  PMID: 23206491
mtDNA haplogroups M1 and U6; Afro-Asiatic languages; North Africa
19.  Dissecting the influence of Neolithic demic diffusion on Indian Y-chromosome pool through J2-M172 haplogroup 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:19157.
The global distribution of J2-M172 sub-haplogroups has been associated with Neolithic demic diffusion. Two branches of J2-M172, J2a-M410 and J2b-M102 make a considerable part of Y chromosome gene pool of the Indian subcontinent. We investigated the Neolithic contribution of demic dispersal from West to Indian paternal lineages, which majorly consists of haplogroups of Late Pleistocene ancestry. To accomplish this, we have analysed 3023 Y-chromosomes from different ethnic populations, of which 355 belonged to J2-M172. Comparison of our data with worldwide data, including Y-STRs of 1157 individuals and haplogroup frequencies of 6966 individuals, suggested a complex scenario that cannot be explained by a single wave of agricultural expansion from Near East to South Asia. Contrary to the widely accepted elite dominance model, we found a substantial presence of J2a-M410 and J2b-M102 haplogroups in both caste and tribal populations of India. Unlike demic spread in Eurasia, our results advocate a unique, complex and ancient arrival of J2a-M410 and J2b-M102 haplogroups into Indian subcontinent.
PMCID: PMC4709632  PMID: 26754573
20.  Y-chromosomal evidence of the cultural diffusion of agriculture in southeast Europe 
The debate concerning the mechanisms underlying the prehistoric spread of farming to Southeast Europe is framed around the opposing roles of population movement and cultural diffusion. To investigate the possible involvement of local people during the transition of agriculture in the Balkans, we analysed patterns of Y-chromosome diversity in 1206 subjects from 17 population samples, mainly from Southeast Europe. Evidence from three Y-chromosome lineages, I-M423, E-V13 and J-M241, make it possible to distinguish between Holocene Mesolithic forager and subsequent Neolithic range expansions from the eastern Sahara and the Near East, respectively. In particular, whereas the Balkan microsatellite variation associated to J-M241 correlates with the Neolithic period, those related to E-V13 and I-M423 Balkan Y chromosomes are consistent with a late Mesolithic time frame. In addition, the low frequency and variance associated to I-M423 and E-V13 in Anatolia and the Middle East, support an European Mesolithic origin of these two clades. Thus, these Balkan Mesolithic foragers with their own autochthonous genetic signatures, were destined to become the earliest to adopt farming, when it was subsequently introduced by a cadre of migrating farmers from the Near East. These initial local converted farmers became the principal agents spreading this economy using maritime leapfrog colonization strategies in the Adriatic and transmitting the Neolithic cultural package to other adjacent Mesolithic populations. The ensuing range expansions of E-V13 and I-M423 parallel in space and time the diffusion of Neolithic Impressed Ware, thereby supporting a case of cultural diffusion using genetic evidence.
PMCID: PMC2947100  PMID: 19107149
Balkan Neolithic; farming transition; peopling of Europe; Y-chromosome haplogroups
21.  The genetic landscape of Equatorial Guinea and the origin and migration routes of the Y chromosome haplogroup R-V88 
Human Y chromosomes belonging to the haplogroup R1b1-P25, although very common in Europe, are usually rare in Africa. However, recently published studies have reported high frequencies of this haplogroup in the central-western region of the African continent and proposed that this represents a ‘back-to-Africa' migration during prehistoric times. To obtain a deeper insight into the history of these lineages, we characterised the paternal genetic background of a population in Equatorial Guinea, a Central-West African country located near the region in which the highest frequencies of the R1b1 haplogroup in Africa have been found to date. In our sample, the large majority (78.6%) of the sequences belong to subclades in haplogroup E, which are the most frequent in Bantu groups. However, the frequency of the R1b1 haplogroup in our sample (17.0%) was higher than that previously observed for the majority of the African continent. Of these R1b1 samples, nine are defined by the V88 marker, which was recently discovered in Africa. As high microsatellite variance was found inside this haplogroup in Central-West Africa and a decrease in this variance was observed towards Northeast Africa, our findings do not support the previously hypothesised movement of Chadic-speaking people from the North across the Sahara as the explanation for these R1b1 lineages in Central-West Africa. The present findings are also compatible with an origin of the V88-derived allele in the Central-West Africa, and its presence in North Africa may be better explained as the result of a migration from the south during the mid-Holocene.
PMCID: PMC3573200  PMID: 22892526
Central-West Africa; Equatorial Guinea; human male lineages; Y chromosome; haplogroup R-V88; back to Africa hypothesis
22.  Between the Baltic and Danubian Worlds: The Genetic Affinities of a Middle Neolithic Population from Central Poland 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0118316.
For a long time, anthropological and genetic research on the Neolithic revolution in Europe was mainly concentrated on the mechanism of agricultural dispersal over different parts of the continent. Recently, attention has shifted towards population processes that occurred after the arrival of the first farmers, transforming the genetically very distinctive early Neolithic Linear Pottery Culture (LBK) and Mesolithic forager populations into present-day Central Europeans. The latest studies indicate that significant changes in this respect took place within the post-Linear Pottery cultures of the Early and Middle Neolithic which were a bridge between the allochthonous LBK and the first indigenous Neolithic culture of north-central Europe—the Funnel Beaker culture (TRB). The paper presents data on mtDNA haplotypes of a Middle Neolithic population dated to 4700/4600–4100/4000 BC belonging to the Brześć Kujawski Group of the Lengyel culture (BKG) from the Kuyavia region in north-central Poland. BKG communities constituted the border of the “Danubian World” in this part of Europe for approx. seven centuries, neighboring foragers of the North European Plain and the southern Baltic basin. MtDNA haplogroups were determined in 11 individuals, and four mtDNA macrohaplogroups were found (H, U5, T, and HV0). The overall haplogroup pattern did not deviate from other post-Linear Pottery populations from central Europe, although a complete lack of N1a and the presence of U5a are noteworthy. Of greatest importance is the observed link between the BKG and the TRB horizon, confirmed by an independent analysis of the craniometric variation of Mesolithic and Neolithic populations inhabiting central Europe. Estimated phylogenetic pattern suggests significant contribution of the post-Linear BKG communities to the origin of the subsequent Middle Neolithic cultures, such as the TRB.
PMCID: PMC4340919  PMID: 25714361
23.  Uniparental Genetic Heritage of Belarusians: Encounter of Rare Middle Eastern Matrilineages with a Central European Mitochondrial DNA Pool 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66499.
Ethnic Belarusians make up more than 80% of the nine and half million people inhabiting the Republic of Belarus. Belarusians together with Ukrainians and Russians represent the East Slavic linguistic group, largest both in numbers and territory, inhabiting East Europe alongside Baltic-, Finno-Permic- and Turkic-speaking people. Till date, only a limited number of low resolution genetic studies have been performed on this population. Therefore, with the phylogeographic analysis of 565 Y-chromosomes and 267 mitochondrial DNAs from six well covered geographic sub-regions of Belarus we strove to complement the existing genetic profile of eastern Europeans. Our results reveal that around 80% of the paternal Belarusian gene pool is composed of R1a, I2a and N1c Y-chromosome haplogroups – a profile which is very similar to the two other eastern European populations – Ukrainians and Russians. The maternal Belarusian gene pool encompasses a full range of West Eurasian haplogroups and agrees well with the genetic structure of central-east European populations. Our data attest that latitudinal gradients characterize the variation of the uniparentally transmitted gene pools of modern Belarusians. In particular, the Y-chromosome reflects movements of people in central-east Europe, starting probably as early as the beginning of the Holocene. Furthermore, the matrilineal legacy of Belarusians retains two rare mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, N1a3 and N3, whose phylogeographies were explored in detail after de novo sequencing of 20 and 13 complete mitogenomes, respectively, from all over Eurasia. Our phylogeographic analyses reveal that two mitochondrial DNA lineages, N3 and N1a3, both of Middle Eastern origin, might mark distinct events of matrilineal gene flow to Europe: during the mid-Holocene period and around the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, respectively.
PMCID: PMC3681942  PMID: 23785503
24.  Different waves and directions of Neolithic migrations in the Armenian Highland 
The peopling of Europe and the nature of the Neolithic agricultural migration as a primary issue in the modern human colonization of the globe is still widely debated. At present, much uncertainty is associated with the reconstruction of the routes of migration for the first farmers from the Near East. In this context, hospitable climatic conditions and the key geographic position of the Armenian Highland suggest that it may have served as a conduit for several waves of expansion of the first agriculturalists from the Near East to Europe and the North Caucasus.
Here, we assess Y-chromosomal distribution in six geographically distinct populations of Armenians that roughly represent the extent of historical Armenia. Using the general haplogroup structure and the specific lineages representing putative genetic markers of the Neolithic Revolution, haplogroups R1b1a2, J2, and G, we identify distinct patterns of genetic affinity between the populations of the Armenian Highland and the neighboring ones north and west from this area.
Based on the results obtained, we suggest a new insight on the different routes and waves of Neolithic expansion of the first farmers through the Armenian Highland. We detected at least two principle migratory directions: (1) westward alongside the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea and (2) northward to the North Caucasus.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13323-014-0015-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4249771  PMID: 25452838
Armenian Highland; Y chromosome; Neolithic migration
25.  Indian Signatures in the Westernmost Edge of the European Romani Diaspora: New Insight from Mitogenomes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75397.
In agreement with historical documentation, several genetic studies have revealed ancestral links between the European Romani and India. The entire mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of 27 Spanish Romani was sequenced in order to shed further light on the origins of this population. The data were analyzed together with a large published dataset (mainly hypervariable region I [HVS-I] haplotypes) of Romani (N = 1,353) and non-Romani worldwide populations (N>150,000). Analysis of mitogenomes allowed the characterization of various Romani-specific clades. M5a1b1a1 is the most distinctive European Romani haplogroup; it is present in all Romani groups at variable frequencies (with only sporadic findings in non-Romani) and represents 18% of their mtDNA pool. Its phylogeographic features indicate that M5a1b1a1 originated 1.5 thousand years ago (kya; 95% CI: 1.3–1.8) in a proto-Romani population living in Northwest India. U3 represents the most characteristic Romani haplogroup of European/Near Eastern origin (12.4%); it appears at dissimilar frequencies across the continent (Iberia: ∼31%; Eastern/Central Europe: ∼13%). All U3 mitogenomes of our Iberian Romani sample fall within a new sub-clade, U3b1c, which can be dated to 0.5 kya (95% CI: 0.3–0.7); therefore, signaling a lower bound for the founder event that followed admixture in Europe/Near East. Other minor European/Near Eastern haplogroups (e.g. H24, H88a) were also assimilated into the Romani by introgression with neighboring populations during their diaspora into Europe; yet some show a differentiation from the phylogenetically closest non-Romani counterpart. The phylogeny of Romani mitogenomes shows clear signatures of low effective population sizes and founder effects. Overall, these results are in good agreement with historical documentation, suggesting that cultural identity and relative isolation have allowed the Romani to preserve a distinctive mtDNA heritage, with some features linking them unequivocally to their ancestral Indian homeland.
PMCID: PMC3797067  PMID: 24143169

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