Am J Phys Anthropol. 2005 Dec 1; [Epub ahead of print]
Microsatellite diversity reveals the interplay of language and geography in shaping genetic differentiation of diverse Proto-Australoid populations of west-central India.
Gaikwad S, Vasulu TS, Kashyap VK.
Microsatellite diversity was analyzed in four Proto-Australoid tribes, including Indo-European (Marathi)-speaking Katkari, Pawara, Mahadeo-Koli, and Dravidian (Gondi)-speaking groups of Maharashtra, west-central India, to understand their genetic structure and to identify the congruence between language and gene pool. Allele frequency data at 15 short tandem repeat (STR) loci in studied tribes was compared with data of 22 Indo-European- and Dravidian-speaking caste and tribal populations using heterozygosity, allele size variance, analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA), G(ST) estimate, PC plot, and Mantel correlation test. Our results demonstrate that "Gondi" tribes comprising the Madia-Gond, a hunter-gatherer population, and the agriculturist Dheria-Gond harbor lower diversity than "Marathi" tribal groups, which are culturally and genetically distinct. Katkari, a hunter-gatherer tribe, showed greater diversity and the presence of a large number of unique alleles, genetically distinct from all others except the Pawara, supporting their old cultural links. The agriculturist Pawara tribe represents a splinter subgroup of the Bhil tribe and has experienced gene flow. The Mahadeo-Koli, an agriculturally oriented tribe, displayed significant heterozygote deficiency, attributable to the practice of high endogamy. The Proto-Australoid tribal populations were genetically differentiated from castes of similar morphology, suggesting different evolutionary mechanisms operating upon the populations. The populations showed genetic and linguistic similarity, barring a few groups with varied migratory histories. The microsatellite variation clearly demonstrates the interplay of sociocultural factors including linguistic, geographical contiguity, and microevolutionary processes in shaping the genetic diversity of populations in contemporary India. This study supports the ethno-historical relationships of Indian populations.