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1.  The Grandest Genetic Experiment Ever Performed on Man? – A Y-Chromosomal Perspective on Genetic Variation in India 
We have analysed Y-chromosomal data from Indian caste, Indian tribal and East Asian populations in order to investigate the impact of the caste system on male genetic variation. We find that variation within populations is lower in India than in East Asia, while variation between populations is overall higher. This observation can be explained by greater subdivision within the Indian population, leading to more genetic drift. However, the effect is most marked in the tribal populations, and the level of variation between caste populations is similar to the level between Chinese populations. The caste system has therefore had a detectable impact on Y-chromosomal variation, but this has been less strong than the influence of the tribal system, perhaps because of larger population sizes in the castes, more gene flow or a shorter period of time.
PMCID: PMC2987567  PMID: 21103011
Y chromosome; genetic variation; Indian caste system; endogamy; population substructure
2.  Genetic diversity in India and the inference of Eurasian population expansion 
Genome Biology  2010;11(11):R113.
Genetic studies of populations from the Indian subcontinent are of great interest because of India's large population size, complex demographic history, and unique social structure. Despite recent large-scale efforts in discovering human genetic variation, India's vast reservoir of genetic diversity remains largely unexplored.
To analyze an unbiased sample of genetic diversity in India and to investigate human migration history in Eurasia, we resequenced one 100-kb ENCODE region in 92 samples collected from three castes and one tribal group from the state of Andhra Pradesh in south India. Analyses of the four Indian populations, along with eight HapMap populations (692 samples), showed that 30% of all SNPs in the south Indian populations are not seen in HapMap populations. Several Indian populations, such as the Yadava, Mala/Madiga, and Irula, have nucleotide diversity levels as high as those of HapMap African populations. Using unbiased allele-frequency spectra, we investigated the expansion of human populations into Eurasia. The divergence time estimates among the major population groups suggest that Eurasian populations in this study diverged from Africans during the same time frame (approximately 90 to 110 thousand years ago). The divergence among different Eurasian populations occurred more than 40,000 years after their divergence with Africans.
Our results show that Indian populations harbor large amounts of genetic variation that have not been surveyed adequately by public SNP discovery efforts. Our data also support a delayed expansion hypothesis in which an ancestral Eurasian founding population remained isolated long after the out-of-Africa diaspora, before expanding throughout Eurasia.
PMCID: PMC3156952  PMID: 21106085
3.  Population Differentiation of Southern Indian Male Lineages Correlates with Agricultural Expansions Predating the Caste System 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50269.
Previous studies that pooled Indian populations from a wide variety of geographical locations, have obtained contradictory conclusions about the processes of the establishment of the Varna caste system and its genetic impact on the origins and demographic histories of Indian populations. To further investigate these questions we took advantage that both Y chromosome and caste designation are paternally inherited, and genotyped 1,680 Y chromosomes representing 12 tribal and 19 non-tribal (caste) endogamous populations from the predominantly Dravidian-speaking Tamil Nadu state in the southernmost part of India. Tribes and castes were both characterized by an overwhelming proportion of putatively Indian autochthonous Y-chromosomal haplogroups (H-M69, F-M89, R1a1-M17, L1-M27, R2-M124, and C5-M356; 81% combined) with a shared genetic heritage dating back to the late Pleistocene (10–30 Kya), suggesting that more recent Holocene migrations from western Eurasia contributed <20% of the male lineages. We found strong evidence for genetic structure, associated primarily with the current mode of subsistence. Coalescence analysis suggested that the social stratification was established 4–6 Kya and there was little admixture during the last 3 Kya, implying a minimal genetic impact of the Varna (caste) system from the historically-documented Brahmin migrations into the area. In contrast, the overall Y-chromosomal patterns, the time depth of population diversifications and the period of differentiation were best explained by the emergence of agricultural technology in South Asia. These results highlight the utility of detailed local genetic studies within India, without prior assumptions about the importance of Varna rank status for population grouping, to obtain new insights into the relative influences of past demographic events for the population structure of the whole of modern India.
PMCID: PMC3508930  PMID: 23209694
4.  Y-chromosomal insights into the genetic impact of the caste system in India 
Human genetics  2006;121(1):137-144.
The caste system has persisted in Indian Hindu society for around 3,500 years. Like the Y chromosome, caste is defined at birth, and males cannot change their caste. In order to investigate the genetic consequences of this system, we have analysed male-lineage variation in a sample of 227 Indian men of known caste, 141 from the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh and 86 from the rest of India. We typed 131 Y-chromosomal binary markers and 16 microsatellites. We find striking evidence for male substructure: in particular, Brahmins and Kshatriyas (but not other castes) from Jaunpur each show low diversity and the predominance of a single distinct cluster of haplotypes. These findings confirm the genetic isolation and drift within the Jaunpur upper castes, which are likely to result from founder effects and social factors. In the other castes, there may be either larger effective population sizes, or less strict isolation, or both.
PMCID: PMC2590678  PMID: 17075717
Y chromosome; haplotype; human population substructure; Indian caste system
5.  Genetic Affinities of the Central Indian Tribal Populations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32546.
The central Indian state Madhya Pradesh is often called as ‘heart of India’ and has always been an important region functioning as a trinexus belt for three major language families (Indo-European, Dravidian and Austroasiatic). There are less detailed genetic studies on the populations inhabited in this region. Therefore, this study is an attempt for extensive characterization of genetic ancestries of three tribal populations, namely; Bharia, Bhil and Sahariya, inhabiting this region using haploid and diploid DNA markers.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed high diversity, including some of the older sublineages of M haplogroup and prominent R lineages in all the three tribes. Y-chromosomal biallelic markers revealed high frequency of Austroasiatic-specific M95-O2a haplogroup in Bharia and Sahariya, M82-H1a in Bhil and M17-R1a in Bhil and Sahariya. The results obtained by haploid as well as diploid genetic markers revealed strong genetic affinity of Bharia (a Dravidian speaking tribe) with the Austroasiatic (Munda) group. The gene flow from Austroasiatic group is further confirmed by their Y-STRs haplotype sharing analysis, where we determined their founder haplotype from the North Munda speaking tribe, while, autosomal analysis was largely in concordant with the haploid DNA results.
Bhil exhibited largely Indo-European specific ancestry, while Sahariya and Bharia showed admixed genetic package of Indo-European and Austroasiatic populations. Hence, in a landscape like India, linguistic label doesn't unequivocally follow the genetic footprints.
PMCID: PMC3290590  PMID: 22393414
6.  Genetic variation in South Indian castes: evidence from Y-chromosome, mitochondrial, and autosomal polymorphisms 
BMC Genetics  2008;9:86.
Major population movements, social structure, and caste endogamy have influenced the genetic structure of Indian populations. An understanding of these influences is increasingly important as gene mapping and case-control studies are initiated in South Indian populations.
We report new data on 155 individuals from four Tamil caste populations of South India and perform comparative analyses with caste populations from the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh. Genetic differentiation among Tamil castes is low (RST = 0.96% for 45 autosomal short tandem repeat (STR) markers), reflecting a largely common origin. Nonetheless, caste- and continent-specific patterns are evident. For 32 lineage-defining Y-chromosome SNPs, Tamil castes show higher affinity to Europeans than to eastern Asians, and genetic distance estimates to the Europeans are ordered by caste rank. For 32 lineage-defining mitochondrial SNPs and hypervariable sequence (HVS) 1, Tamil castes have higher affinity to eastern Asians than to Europeans. For 45 autosomal STRs, upper and middle rank castes show higher affinity to Europeans than do lower rank castes from either Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh. Local between-caste variation (Tamil Nadu RST = 0.96%, Andhra Pradesh RST = 0.77%) exceeds the estimate of variation between these geographically separated groups (RST = 0.12%). Low, but statistically significant, correlations between caste rank distance and genetic distance are demonstrated for Tamil castes using Y-chromosome, mtDNA, and autosomal data.
Genetic data from Y-chromosome, mtDNA, and autosomal STRs are in accord with historical accounts of northwest to southeast population movements in India. The influence of ancient and historical population movements and caste social structure can be detected and replicated in South Indian caste populations from two different geographic regions.
PMCID: PMC2621241  PMID: 19077280
7.  Influence of language and ancestry on genetic structure of contiguous populations: A microsatellite based study on populations of Orissa 
BMC Genetics  2005;6:4.
We have examined genetic diversity at fifteen autosomal microsatellite loci in seven predominant populations of Orissa to decipher whether populations inhabiting the same geographic region can be differentiated on the basis of language or ancestry. The studied populations have diverse historical accounts of their origin, belong to two major ethnic groups and different linguistic families. Caucasoid caste populations are speakers of Indo-European language and comprise Brahmins, Khandayat, Karan and Gope, while the three Australoid tribal populations include two Austric speakers: Juang and Saora and a Dravidian speaking population, Paroja. These divergent groups provide a varied substratum for understanding variation of genetic patterns in a geographical area resulting from differential admixture between migrants groups and aboriginals, and the influence of this admixture on population stratification.
The allele distribution pattern showed uniformity in the studied groups with approximately 81% genetic variability within populations. The coefficient of gene differentiation was found to be significantly higher in tribes (0.014) than caste groups (0.004). Genetic variance between the groups was 0.34% in both ethnic and linguistic clusters and statistically significant only in the ethnic apportionment. Although the populations were genetically close (FST = 0.010), the contemporary caste and tribal groups formed distinct clusters in both Principal-Component plot and Neighbor-Joining tree. In the phylogenetic tree, the Orissa Brahmins showed close affinity to populations of North India, while Khandayat and Gope clustered with the tribal groups, suggesting a possibility of their origin from indigenous people.
The extent of genetic differentiation in the contemporary caste and tribal groups of Orissa is highly significant and constitutes two distinct genetic clusters. Based on our observations, we suggest that since genetic distances and coefficient of gene differentiation were fairly small, the studied populations are indeed genetically similar and that the genetic structure of populations in a geographical region is primarily influenced by their ancestry and not by socio-cultural hierarchy or language. The scenario of genetic structure, however, might be different for other regions of the subcontinent where populations have more similar ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and there might be variations in the patterns of genomic and socio-cultural affinities in different geographical regions.
PMCID: PMC549189  PMID: 15694006
8.  Most of the extant mtDNA boundaries in South and Southwest Asia were likely shaped during the initial settlement of Eurasia by anatomically modern humans 
BMC Genetics  2004;5:26.
Recent advances in the understanding of the maternal and paternal heritage of south and southwest Asian populations have highlighted their role in the colonization of Eurasia by anatomically modern humans. Further understanding requires a deeper insight into the topology of the branches of the Indian mtDNA phylogenetic tree, which should be contextualized within the phylogeography of the neighboring regional mtDNA variation. Accordingly, we have analyzed mtDNA control and coding region variation in 796 Indian (including both tribal and caste populations from different parts of India) and 436 Iranian mtDNAs. The results were integrated and analyzed together with published data from South, Southeast Asia and West Eurasia.
Four new Indian-specific haplogroup M sub-clades were defined. These, in combination with two previously described haplogroups, encompass approximately one third of the haplogroup M mtDNAs in India. Their phylogeography and spread among different linguistic phyla and social strata was investigated in detail. Furthermore, the analysis of the Iranian mtDNA pool revealed patterns of limited reciprocal gene flow between Iran and the Indian sub-continent and allowed the identification of different assemblies of shared mtDNA sub-clades.
Since the initial peopling of South and West Asia by anatomically modern humans, when this region may well have provided the initial settlers who colonized much of the rest of Eurasia, the gene flow in and out of India of the maternally transmitted mtDNA has been surprisingly limited. Specifically, our analysis of the mtDNA haplogroups, which are shared between Indian and Iranian populations and exhibit coalescence ages corresponding to around the early Upper Paleolithic, indicates that they are present in India largely as Indian-specific sub-lineages. In contrast, other ancient Indian-specific variants of M and R are very rare outside the sub-continent.
PMCID: PMC516768  PMID: 15339343
9.  Phylogeography of mtDNA haplogroup R7 in the Indian peninsula 
Human genetic diversity observed in Indian subcontinent is second only to that of Africa. This implies an early settlement and demographic growth soon after the first 'Out-of-Africa' dispersal of anatomically modern humans in Late Pleistocene. In contrast to this perspective, linguistic diversity in India has been thought to derive from more recent population movements and episodes of contact. With the exception of Dravidian, which origin and relatedness to other language phyla is obscure, all the language families in India can be linked to language families spoken in different regions of Eurasia. Mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome evidence has supported largely local evolution of the genetic lineages of the majority of Dravidian and Indo-European speaking populations, but there is no consensus yet on the question of whether the Munda (Austro-Asiatic) speaking populations originated in India or derive from a relatively recent migration from further East.
Here, we report the analysis of 35 novel complete mtDNA sequences from India which refine the structure of Indian-specific varieties of haplogroup R. Detailed analysis of haplogroup R7, coupled with a survey of ~12,000 mtDNAs from caste and tribal groups over the entire Indian subcontinent, reveals that one of its more recently derived branches (R7a1), is particularly frequent among Munda-speaking tribal groups. This branch is nested within diverse R7 lineages found among Dravidian and Indo-European speakers of India. We have inferred from this that a subset of Munda-speaking groups have acquired R7 relatively recently. Furthermore, we find that the distribution of R7a1 within the Munda-speakers is largely restricted to one of the sub-branches (Kherwari) of northern Munda languages. This evidence does not support the hypothesis that the Austro-Asiatic speakers are the primary source of the R7 variation. Statistical analyses suggest a significant correlation between genetic variation and geography, rather than between genes and languages.
Our high-resolution phylogeographic study, involving diverse linguistic groups in India, suggests that the high frequency of mtDNA haplogroup R7 among Munda speaking populations of India can be explained best by gene flow from linguistically different populations of Indian subcontinent. The conclusion is based on the observation that among Indo-Europeans, and particularly in Dravidians, the haplogroup is, despite its lower frequency, phylogenetically more divergent, while among the Munda speakers only one sub-clade of R7, i.e. R7a1, can be observed. It is noteworthy that though R7 is autochthonous to India, and arises from the root of hg R, its distribution and phylogeography in India is not uniform. This suggests the more ancient establishment of an autochthonous matrilineal genetic structure, and that isolation in the Pleistocene, lineage loss through drift, and endogamy of prehistoric and historic groups have greatly inhibited genetic homogenization and geographical uniformity.
PMCID: PMC2529308  PMID: 18680585
10.  Austro-Asiatic Tribes of Northeast India Provide Hitherto Missing Genetic Link between South and Southeast Asia 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(11):e1141.
Northeast India, the only region which currently forms a land bridge between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, has been proposed as an important corridor for the initial peopling of East Asia. Given that the Austro-Asiatic linguistic family is considered to be the oldest and spoken by certain tribes in India, Northeast India and entire Southeast Asia, we expect that populations of this family from Northeast India should provide the signatures of genetic link between Indian and Southeast Asian populations. In order to test this hypothesis, we analyzed mtDNA and Y-Chromosome SNP and STR data of the eight groups of the Austro-Asiatic Khasi from Northeast India and the neighboring Garo and compared with that of other relevant Asian populations. The results suggest that the Austro-Asiatic Khasi tribes of Northeast India represent a genetic continuity between the populations of South and Southeast Asia, thereby advocating that northeast India could have been a major corridor for the movement of populations from India to East/Southeast Asia.
PMCID: PMC2065843  PMID: 17989774
11.  Reconstructing the Indian Origin and Dispersal of the European Roma: A Maternal Genetic Perspective 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(1):e15988.
Previous genetic, anthropological and linguistic studies have shown that Roma (Gypsies) constitute a founder population dispersed throughout Europe whose origins might be traced to the Indian subcontinent. Linguistic and anthropological evidence point to Indo-Aryan ethnic groups from North-western India as the ancestral parental population of Roma. Recently, a strong genetic hint supporting this theory came from a study of a private mutation causing primary congenital glaucoma. In the present study, complete mitochondrial control sequences of Iberian Roma and previously published maternal lineages of other European Roma were analyzed in order to establish the genetic affinities among Roma groups, determine the degree of admixture with neighbouring populations, infer the migration routes followed since the first arrival to Europe, and survey the origin of Roma within the Indian subcontinent. Our results show that the maternal lineage composition in the Roma groups follows a pattern of different migration routes, with several founder effects, and low effective population sizes along their dispersal. Our data allowed the confirmation of a North/West migration route shared by Polish, Lithuanian and Iberian Roma. Additionally, eleven Roma founder lineages were identified and degrees of admixture with host populations were estimated. Finally, the comparison with an extensive database of Indian sequences allowed us to identify the Punjab state, in North-western India, as the putative ancestral homeland of the European Roma, in agreement with previous linguistic and anthropological studies.
PMCID: PMC3018485  PMID: 21264345
12.  The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48477.
Linguistic and genetic studies on Roma populations inhabited in Europe have unequivocally traced these populations to the Indian subcontinent. However, the exact parental population group and time of the out-of-India dispersal have remained disputed. In the absence of archaeological records and with only scanty historical documentation of the Roma, comparative linguistic studies were the first to identify their Indian origin. Recently, molecular studies on the basis of disease-causing mutations and haploid DNA markers (i.e. mtDNA and Y-chromosome) supported the linguistic view. The presence of Indian-specific Y-chromosome haplogroup H1a1a-M82 and mtDNA haplogroups M5a1, M18 and M35b among Roma has corroborated that their South Asian origins and later admixture with Near Eastern and European populations. However, previous studies have left unanswered questions about the exact parental population groups in South Asia. Here we present a detailed phylogeographical study of Y-chromosomal haplogroup H1a1a-M82 in a data set of more than 10,000 global samples to discern a more precise ancestral source of European Romani populations. The phylogeographical patterns and diversity estimates indicate an early origin of this haplogroup in the Indian subcontinent and its further expansion to other regions. Tellingly, the short tandem repeat (STR) based network of H1a1a-M82 lineages displayed the closest connection of Romani haplotypes with the traditional scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population groups of northwestern India.
PMCID: PMC3509117  PMID: 23209554
13.  Haemoglobin S and βThal: Their Distribution in Maharashtra, India 
It has been more than six decades since the first report of sickle cell anaemia in Indian subcontinent. Since then the researchers have been reported various haemoglobin varients prevalent in India, they are HbS, HbβT, HbE and HbD. Earlier studies were confined to tribal and scheduled castes populations as if sickle haemoglobin was restricted to these two groups only. Since a decade or so, few studies on haemoglobinopathies from other Indian populations are available. Examination of premarital age group of 5172 Indian subjects (2762 males and 2410 females) from eastern Maharashtra of India showed high incidences of HbS (0-33 per cent) and HbβT (0-10 per cent) in different ethnic groups. In present study cumulative gene frequency for HbS and HbβT was found to be of 6.1 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively. In present study sickle cell gene has been found in general categories of Indian populations besides scheduled castes and tribal populations. In Scheduled tribes HbS ranges from 0-24 per cent, in Scheduled castes and Nomadic tribal groups, HbS ranges from 0-13 per cent, in Other Backward caste categories it varies from 0-20 per cent while in higher caste populations it ranges from 0-5 per cent. The incidences of HbS are much higher among tribal groups than that found in other caste populations. The incidences of homozygous individuals are very few in HbS and HbβT. The hitherto regional and populations specific HbβT haemoglobin variant in Sindhi and Bengali communities is gradually spreading in other populations of Maharashtra as evident from the present study. Lesser value of MCV, MCH and MCHC in homozygous HbβT is due to impairments of synthesis β-globin chain. The subject with the presence of β-thalassaemia is accompanied by raised level of HbA2. Unusual higher values of RBC and WBC suggest the high concentration of hypochromic microcytosis in anemia. The means of MCV MCH and MCHC in HbβT are much lower than the normal ranges compared to HbS.
PMCID: PMC3708271  PMID: 23847457
haemoglobinopathies; sickle cell anemia; thalassaemia; eastern maharashtra; India
14.  Maternal Footprints of Southeast Asians in North India 
Human Heredity  2008;66(1):1-9.
We have analyzed 7,137 samples from 125 different caste, tribal and religious groups of India and 99 samples from three populations of Nepal for the length variation in the COII/tRNALys region of mtDNA. Samples showing length variation were subjected to detailed phylogenetic analysis based on HVS-I and informative coding region sequence variation. The overall frequencies of the 9-bp deletion and insertion variants in South Asia were 1.9 and 0.6%, respectively. We have also defined a novel deep-rooting haplogroup M43 and identified the rare haplogroup H14 in Indian populations carrying the 9-bp deletion by complete mtDNA sequencing. Moreover, we redefined haplogroup M6 and dissected it into two well-defined subclades. The presence of haplogroups F1 and B5a in Uttar Pradesh suggests minor maternal contribution from Southeast Asia to Northern India. The occurrence of haplogroup F1 in the Nepalese sample implies that Nepal might have served as a bridge for the flow of eastern lineages to India. The presence of R6 in the Nepalese, on the other hand, suggests that the gene flow between India and Nepal has been reciprocal.
PMCID: PMC2588665  PMID: 18223312
South Asia; 9bp indel; mtDNA; Haplogroup
15.  Maternal Footprints of Southeast Asians in North India 
Human heredity  2008;66(1):1-9.
We have analyzed 7137 samples from 125 different caste, tribal and religious groups of India and 99 samples from three populations of Nepal for the length variation in the COII/tRNALys region of mtDNA. Samples showing length variation were subjected to detailed phylogenetic analysis based on HVS-I and informative coding region sequence variation. The overall frequencies of the 9-bp deletion and insertion variants in South Asia were 1.8% and 0.5%, respectively. We have also defined a novel deep-rooting haplogroup M43 and identified the rare haplogroup H14 in Indian populations carrying the 9bp-deletion by complete mtDNA sequencing. Moreover, we redefined haplogroup M6 and dissected it into two well-defined subclades. The presence of haplogroups F1 and B5a in Uttar Pradesh suggests minor maternal contribution from Southeast Asia to Northern India. The occurrence of haplogroup F1 in the Nepalese sample implies that Nepal might have served as a bridge for the flow of eastern lineages to India. The presence of R6 in the Nepalese, on the other hand, suggests that the gene flow between India and Nepal has been reciprocal.
PMCID: PMC2588665  PMID: 18223312
South Asia; 9bp indel; mtDNA; Haplogroup
16.  Genomic view on the peopling of India 
India is known for its vast human diversity, consisting of more than four and a half thousand anthropologically well-defined populations. Each population differs in terms of language, culture, physical features and, most importantly, genetic architecture. The size of populations varies from a few hundred to millions. Based on the social structure, Indians are classified into various caste, tribe and religious groups. These social classifications are very rigid and have remained undisturbed by emerging urbanisation and cultural changes. The variable social customs, strict endogamy marriage practices, long-term isolation and evolutionary forces have added immensely to the diversification of the Indian populations. These factors have also led to these populations acquiring a set of Indian-specific genetic variations responsible for various diseases in India. Interestingly, most of these variations are absent outside the Indian subcontinent. Thus, this review is focused on the peopling of India, the caste system, marriage practice and the resulting health and forensic implications.
PMCID: PMC3514343  PMID: 23020857
Admixture; caste; Indians; mtDNA; tribe; Y-chromosome
17.  Reconstructing Indian Population History 
Nature  2009;461(7263):489-494.
India has been underrepresented in genome-wide surveys of human variation. We analyze 25 diverse groups to provide strong evidence for two ancient populations, genetically divergent, that are ancestral to most Indians today. One, the “Ancestral North Indians” (ANI), is genetically close to Middle Easterners, Central Asians, and Europeans, while the other, the “Ancestral South Indians” (ASI), is as distinct from ANI and East Asians as they are from each other. By introducing methods that can estimate ancestry without accurate ancestral populations, we show that ANI ancestry ranges from 39-71% in India, and is higher in traditionally upper caste and Indo-European speakers. Groups with only ASI ancestry may no longer exist in mainland India. However, the Andamanese are an ASI-related group without ANI ancestry, showing that the peopling of the islands must have occurred before ANI-ASI gene flow on the mainland. Allele frequency differences between groups in India are larger than in Europe, reflecting strong founder effects whose signatures have been maintained for thousands of years due to endogamy. We therefore predict that there will be an excess of recessive diseases in India, different in each group, which should be possible to screen and map genetically.
PMCID: PMC2842210  PMID: 19779445
18.  Presence of three different paternal lineages among North Indians: A study of 560 Y chromosomes 
Annals of human biology  2009;36(1):46-59.
The genetic structure, affinities, and diversity of the 1 billion Indians hold important keys to numerous unanswered questions regarding the evolution of human populations and the forces shaping contemporary patterns of genetic variation. Although there have been several recent studies of South Indian caste groups, North Indian caste groups, and South Indian Muslims using Y-chromosomal markers, overall, the Indian population has still not been well studied compared to other geographical populations. In particular, no genetic study has been conducted on Shias and Sunnis from North India.
This study aims to investigate genetic variation and the gene pool in North Indians.
Subjects and methods
A total of 32 Y-chromosomal markers in 560 North Indian males collected from three higher caste groups (Brahmins, Chaturvedis and Bhargavas) and two Muslims groups (Shia and Sunni) were genotyped.
Three distinct lineages were revealed based upon 13 haplogroups. The first was a Central Asian lineage harbouring haplogroups R1 and R2. The second lineage was of Middle-Eastern origin represented by haplogroups J2*, Shia-specific E1b1b1, and to some extent G* and L*. The third was the indigenous Indian Y-lineage represented by haplogroups H1*, F*, C* and O*. Haplogroup E1b1b1 was observed in Shias only.
The results revealed that a substantial part of today’s North Indian paternal gene pool was contributed by Central Asian lineages who are Indo-European speakers, suggesting that extant Indian caste groups are primarily the descendants of Indo-European migrants. The presence of haplogroup E in Shias, first reported in this study, suggests a genetic distinction between the two Indo Muslim sects. The findings of the present study provide insights into prehistoric and early historic patterns of migration into India and the evolution of Indian populations in recent history.
PMCID: PMC2755252  PMID: 19058044
Paternal lineages; Y-chromosomal markers; North Indians; migration
19.  Haptoglobin polymorphism among the tribal groups of southern Gujarat 
Indian Journal of Human Genetics  2011;17(3):169-174.
Gujarat is located at the western most point of the Indian subcontinent. Valsad and Surat districts are part of the ‘tribal belt’of Gujarat and constitute 29.1% of total tribal population of Gujarat. These tribal populations are a rich source of gaining insights in the patterns of genetic diversity and genetico-environmental disorders against the back drop of their ecological, historical and ethnographic aspects.
The objectives were to find out a) the genetic diversity among the tribes of Gujarat with reference to haptoglobin (Hp) locus b) the relationship between Hp polymorphism and sickle cell anemia/trait.
431 individuals belonging to eight tribal groups were studied for Hp polymorphism using polyacrylamide disc gel electrophoresis (PAGE). Hb*S was screened by dithionate tube turbididy (DTT) test and confirmed using cellulose acetate membrane electrophoresis (CAME).
Allele frequency was calculated by direct gene counting method. Average heterozygosity and gene diversity were computed using software DISPAN. Analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) was estimated using software ARLEQUIN version 3.1.
Pattern of allele frequency distribution showed preponderance of Hp2 allele in all the eight tribal groups, which is in accordance with its frequency in different populations of Indian subcontinent. Total average heterozygosity (HT) was found to be low (0.160) but the level of genetic differentiation (GST) was found to be moderately high (5.6%). AMOVA analysis indicated least among group variance between west and south Indian populations (-0.04%) indicating the affinities of the tribes of Gujarat with that of Dravidian speaking groups. Analysis of Hp phenotypes among sickle cell anemia/ trait individuals revealed a high frequency of Hp 0-0 phenotype (92.7%) among SS individuals as opposed to only 9.7% among AS individuals, reaffirming the selective advantage of HbAS state in relation to hemolytic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3276985  PMID: 22345988
AMOVA; haptoglobin; heterozygosity; hypohaptoglobinaemia; sickle cell anemia; tribes.
20.  Indigenous Health and Socioeconomic Status in India 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(10):e421.
Systematic evidence on the patterns of health deprivation among indigenous peoples remains scant in developing countries. We investigate the inequalities in mortality and substance use between indigenous and non-indigenous, and within indigenous, groups in India, with an aim to establishing the relative contribution of socioeconomic status in generating health inequalities.
Methods and Findings
Cross-sectional population-based data were obtained from the 1998–1999 Indian National Family Health Survey. Mortality, smoking, chewing tobacco use, and alcohol use were four separate binary outcomes in our analysis. Indigenous status in the context of India was operationalized through the Indian government category of scheduled tribes, or Adivasis, which refers to people living in tribal communities characterized by distinctive social, cultural, historical, and geographical circumstances.
Indigenous groups experience excess mortality compared to non-indigenous groups, even after adjusting for economic standard of living (odds ratio 1.22; 95% confidence interval 1.13–1.30). They are also more likely to smoke and (especially) drink alcohol, but the prevalence of chewing tobacco is not substantially different between indigenous and non-indigenous groups. There are substantial health variations within indigenous groups, such that indigenous peoples in the bottom quintile of the indigenous-peoples-specific standard of living index have an odds ratio for mortality of 1.61 (95% confidence interval 1.33–1.95) compared to indigenous peoples in the top fifth of the wealth distribution. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and chewing tobacco also show graded associations with socioeconomic status within indigenous groups.
Socioeconomic status differentials substantially account for the health inequalities between indigenous and non-indigenous groups in India. However, a strong socioeconomic gradient in health is also evident within indigenous populations, reiterating the overall importance of socioeconomic status for reducing population-level health disparities, regardless of indigeneity.
Indigenous groups in India were found to have excess mortality rates compared with non-indigenous groups. A socioeconomic gradient within indigenous populations was also found.
Editors' Summary
In many parts of the world the majority of the population are the descendants of immigrants who arrived there within the last few hundred years. Living alongside of them, and in a minority, are the so-called indigenous (or aboriginal) people who are the descendants of people who lived there in more ancient times. It is estimated that there are 300 million indigenous people worldwide. They are frequently marginalized from the rest of the population, their human rights are often abused, and there are serious concerns about their health and welfare. The state of health of the indigenous people of developed countries such as the US and Australia has often been studied, and we have a fairly clear idea of the kinds of problems these people face. Most indigenous people, however, live in developing countries, and less is known about their health.
India is the second-most populous country in the world, with an estimated 1.1 billion inhabitants. An estimated 90 million indigenous people live in India, where they are often referred to as “scheduled tribes” or Adivasis. They live in many parts of the country but are much more numerous in some Indian states than in others.
Why Was This Study Done?
It has often been said that indigenous people in India have worse health than other Indians, though no figures have been compiled to confirm these claims. The researchers wanted to establish whether it is simply an issue of indigenous people being poorer than other Indians—poverty being well known as a cause of disease—or whether being indigenous is, in itself, a health risk. The researchers also wanted to establish whether there are health inequalities within indigenous groups, and if these differences also followed a socioeconomic patterning.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They used figures collected in the 1998–1999 Indian National Family Health Survey. When this survey was conducted, it was noted whether people were considered to be members of scheduled tribes. The researchers also knew, from the survey, about the income of the families, their death rates, and whether they drank alcohol or smoked or chewed tobacco. They found that indigenous people had higher death rates than other Indians. They made statistical calculations to account for differences in standard of living, and this substantially reduced the difference in death rate among indigenous groups, but an indigenous person was still 1.2 times more likely to die than a non-indigenous person with the same standard of living. Indigenous people were also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke tobacco, and here again, differences in standard of living accounted for a substantial portion of the differences. Importantly, the researchers' analysis showed a strong socioeconomic patterning of health inequalities within the indigenous population groups: the health differences between the poorest and richest indigenous groups were similar in scale to the differences between the poorest and richest non-indigenous groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The authors consider their finding that there is a socioeconomic gradient in mortality and health behaviors among indigenous people to be an important result from the study. The socioeconomic marginalization of indigenous people from the rest of Indian society does seem to increase their health risks, and so does their use of alcohol and tobacco. However, if their standard of living can be improved there would be major benefits for their health and welfare.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A useful discussion of the term “indigenous people” (with links to documents about international agreements intended to improve their human rights) may be found on Wikipedia. (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia that anyone can edit.)
Survival International is a human rights organization that campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples, helping them preserve their land and culture.
The charity Health Unlimited also works with indigenous people and its Web site includes links to recent studies and conferences.
A news item from the BBC describes a recent investigation into the health of indigenous people worldwide.
The World Health Organization has produced a number of reports on the health of indigenous people
PMCID: PMC1621109  PMID: 17076556
21.  Indian Ocean Crossroads: Human Genetic Origin and Population Structure in the Maldives 
The Maldives are an 850 km-long string of atolls located centrally in the northern Indian Ocean basin. Because of this geographic situation, the present-day Maldivian population has potential for uncovering genetic signatures of historic migration events in the region. We therefore studied autosomal DNA-, mitochondrial DNA-, and Y-chromosomal DNA markers in a representative sample of 141 unrelated Maldivians, with 119 from six major settlements. We found a total of 63 different mtDNA haplotypes that could be allocated to 29 mtDNA haplogroups, mostly within the M, R, and U clades. We found 66 different Y-STR haplotypes in 10 Y-chromosome haplogroups, predominantly H1, J2, L, R1a1a, and R2. Parental admixture analysis for mtDNA- and Y-haplogroup data indicates a strong genetic link between the Maldive Islands and mainland South Asia, and excludes significant gene flow from Southeast Asia. Paternal admixture from West Asia is detected, but cannot be distinguished from admixture from South Asia. Maternal admixture from West Asia is excluded. Within the Maldives, we find a subtle genetic substructure in all marker systems that is not directly related to geographic distance or linguistic dialect. We found reduced Y-STR diversity and reduced male-mediated gene flow between atolls, suggesting independent male founder effects for each atoll. Detected reduced female-mediated gene flow between atolls confirms a Maldives-specific history of matrilocality. In conclusion, our new genetic data agree with the commonly reported Maldivian ancestry in South Asia, but furthermore suggest multiple, independent immigration events and asymmetrical migration of females and males across the archipelago. Am J Phys Anthropol 151:58–67, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
PMCID: PMC3652038  PMID: 23526367
Y chromosome; mitochondrial DNA; migration; Indo-Aryan languages; South Asia
22.  Y-chromosome evidence suggests a common paternal heritage of Austro-Asiatic populations 
The Austro-Asiatic linguistic family, which is considered to be the oldest of all the families in India, has a substantial presence in Southeast Asia. However, the possibility of any genetic link among the linguistic sub-families of the Indian Austro-Asiatics on the one hand and between the Indian and the Southeast Asian Austro-Asiatics on the other has not been explored till now. Therefore, to trace the origin and historic expansion of Austro-Asiatic groups of India, we analysed Y-chromosome SNP and STR data of the 1222 individuals from 25 Indian populations, covering all the three branches of Austro-Asiatic tribes, viz. Mundari, Khasi-Khmuic and Mon-Khmer, along with the previously published data on 214 relevant populations from Asia and Oceania.
Our results suggest a strong paternal genetic link, not only among the subgroups of Indian Austro-Asiatic populations but also with those of Southeast Asia. However, maternal link based on mtDNA is not evident. The results also indicate that the haplogroup O-M95 had originated in the Indian Austro-Asiatic populations ~65,000 yrs BP (95% C.I. 25,442 – 132,230) and their ancestors carried it further to Southeast Asia via the Northeast Indian corridor. Subsequently, in the process of expansion, the Mon-Khmer populations from Southeast Asia seem to have migrated and colonized Andaman and Nicobar Islands at a much later point of time.
Our findings are consistent with the linguistic evidence, which suggests that the linguistic ancestors of the Austro-Asiatic populations have originated in India and then migrated to Southeast Asia.
PMCID: PMC1851701  PMID: 17389048
23.  Unique Hepatitis B Virus Subgenotype in a Primitive Tribal Community in Eastern India ▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2010;48(11):4063-4071.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) strains isolated from members of the primitive Paharia ethnic community of Eastern India were studied to gain insight into the genetic diversity and evolution of the virus. The Paharia tribe has remained quite separate from the rest of the Indians and differs culturally, genetically, and linguistically from the mainstream East Indian population, whose HBV strains were previously characterized. Full-length HBV DNA was PCR amplified, cloned, and sequenced. Phylogenetic relationships between the tribal sequences and reference sequences from the mainstream population were assessed, and divergence times of subgenotypes of HBV genotype D were estimated. HBV was found in 2% of the Paharias participating in the study. A predominance of hepatitis B e antigen-negative infection (73%) was observed among the Paharias, and the genome sequences of the HBV strains exhibited relative homogeneity, with a very low prevalence of mutations. The novel feature of Paharia HBV was the exclusive presence of the D5 subgenotype, which was recently identified in Eastern India. Analysis of the four open reading frames (ORFs) of these tribal HBV D5 sequences and comparison with previously reported D1 to D7 sequences enabled the identification of 27 specific amino acid residues, including 6 unique ones, that could be considered D5 signatures. The estimated divergence times among subgenotypes D1 to D5 suggest that D5 was the first to diverge and hence is the most ancient of the D subgenotypes. The presence of a specific, ancient subgenotype of HBV within an ethnically primitive, endogamous population highlights the importance of studies of HBV genetics in well-separated human populations to understand viral transmission between communities and genome evolution.
PMCID: PMC3020822  PMID: 20844228
24.  A descriptive profile of β-thalassaemia mutations in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka 
Journal of community genetics  2010;1(3):149-157.
Thalassaemia is a common and debilitating autosomal recessive disorder affecting many populations in South Asia. To date, efforts to create a regional profile of β-thalassaemia mutations have largely concentrated on the populations of India. The present study updates and expands an earlier profile of β-thalassaemia mutations in India, and incorporates comparable data from Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Despite limited data availability, clear patterns of historical and cultural population movements were observed relating to major β-thalassaemia mutations. The current regional mutation profiles of β-thalassaemia have been influenced by historical migrations into and from the Indian sub-continent, by the development and effects of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Sikh religious traditions, and by the major mid-twentieth century population translocations that followed the Partition of India in 1947. Given the resultant genetic complexity revealed by the populations of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to ensure optimum diagnostic efficiency and the delivery of appropriate care, it is important that screening and counselling programmes for β-thalassaemia mutations recognise the underlying patterns of population sub-division throughout the region.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12687-010-0026-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3185991  PMID: 22460247
β-Thalassaemia; Mutation profiles; Endogamy; Consanguinity; India; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; South Asia
25.  Population stratification and genetic association studies in South Asia 
Population stratification and its influence on genetic association studies is a controversial topic. Although it has been suggested that stratification is unlikely to bias the results of association studies conducted in developed countries, convincing contrary empirical evidence has been published. However, it is in populations where historical ethnic, religious and language barriers exist that community subdivisions will predictably exert greatest genetic effect, and influence the organization of association studies. In many of the populations of the Indian sub-continent, these basic population divisions are compounded by a strict tradition of intra-community marriage and by marriage between close biological relatives. Data on the very significant levels of genetic diversity that characterize the populations of India and Pakistan, with some 50,000-60,000 caste and non-caste communities in India, and average first cousin marriage rates of 40%-50% in Pakistan, are presented and discussed. Under these circumstances, failure to explicitly control for caste/biraderi membership and the presence of consanguinity could seriously jeopardize, and may totally invalidate, the results of association/case control studies and clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC2702070  PMID: 19565013
Stratification; endogamy; consanguinity; association studies; India; Pakistan

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