March 11, 2005

mtDNA in Balearic archipelago

American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Early View)

Mitochondrial DNA HVRI variation in Balearic populations

A. Picornell et al


The Balearic archipelago (Majorca, Minorca, and Ibiza islands and the Chuetas, a small and inbred community of descendants of Sephardic Jews) and Valencia were studied by means of the sequencing of a 404-bp segment of hypervariable region I (HVRI) mtDNA in 231 individuals. In total, 127 different haplotypes defined by 92 variable positions were identified. The incidence of unique haplotypes was very low, especially in Ibiza and the Chuetas. A remarkable observation in the Chueta community was the high frequency (23%) of preHV-1, a Middle Eastern lineage that is closely related, though not identical, to many others found at high frequencies in different Jewish populations. The presence of this haplogroup convincingly supported the Jewish origin of the Chueta community. The studied populations showed a reduced African contribution, and no individuals were detected with North African haplogroup U6, indicating a lack of maternal contribution from the Moslem settlement to these populations. Only Ibiza showed a lower diversity, indicating a possible genetic drift effect, also supported by the historical information known about this island. The variability in the sequence of mtDNA hypervariable region I correlated well with the existing information from the populations, with the exception of that of the Y-chromosome, which could indicate a differential contribution of the maternal and paternal lineages to the genetic pool of the Balearic Islands. The phylogenetic trees showed the intermediate position of the Chueta population between the Middle Eastern and Majorcan samples, confirming the Jewish origin of this population and their Spanish admixture.


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