To determine the human Y-chromosome haplogroup backgrounds of intermediate-sized variant alleles displayed by short tandem repeat (STR) loci DYS392, DYS449, and DYS385, and to evaluate the potential of each intermediate variant to elucidate new phylogenetic substructure within the human Y-chromosome haplogroup tree.
Molecular characterization of lineages was achieved using a combination of Y-chromosome haplogroup defining binary polymorphisms and up to 37 short tandem repeat loci. DNA sequencing and median-joining network analyses were used to evaluate Y-chromosome lineages displaying intermediate variant alleles.
We show that DYS392.2 occurs on a single haplogroup background, specifically I1*-M253, and likely represents a new phylogenetic subdivision in this European haplogroup. Intermediate variants DYS449.2 and DYS385.2 both occur on multiple haplogroup backgrounds, and when evaluated within specific haplogroup contexts, delineate new phylogenetic substructure, with DYS449.2 being informative within haplogroup A-P97 and DYS385.2 in haplogroups D-M145, E1b1a-M2, and R1b*-M343. Sequence analysis of variant alleles observed within the various haplogroup backgrounds showed that the nature of the intermediate variant differed, confirming the mutations arose independently.
Y-chromosome short tandem repeat intermediate variant alleles, while relatively rare, typically occur on multiple haplogroup backgrounds. This distribution indicates that such mutations arise at a rate generally intermediate to those of binary markers and Y-STR loci. As a result, intermediate-sized Y-STR variants can reveal phylogenetic substructure within the Y-chromosome phylogeny not currently detected by either binary or Y-STR markers alone, but only when such variants are evaluated within a haplogroup context.