December 10, 2012

Roma origins once more (Moorjani et al. 2012)

I had first noticed that this new paper by Moorjani et al. was referenced by Loh et al., and it has now been posted on arXiv. In the last week, a couple of other papers on the same topic (Mendizabal et al. on autosomal DNA and Rai et al. on a Y-chromosome founder lineage) have also appeared.

All three studies appear to converge on NW India as the place of origin of the European Roma, and on a recent admixture between this "Proto-Roma" population and Europeans. It will be interesting to see if there are any substantial differences between Moorjani et al. and Mendizabal et al. in the reconstruction of Roma origins. There is also an appendix on updates to rolloff and other topics of a technical nature that ought to be useful to readers irrespective of their interest in this particular population.

It'll probably take me a while to digest everything in this paper, but I will make one quick observation after (virtually) leafing through the article; the observation that {CEU, ANI} form a clade with Adygei as an outgroup is used to infer admixture proportions. I recently had a blog post on the differential relationship of ANI to Caucasus populations, in which I showed that while D(CEU, Adygei; South Asian, Onge) was positive, and significant in some cases -- indicating CEU being more closely related to ANI (Ancestral North Indians) than Adygei -- the reverse was the case for D(CEU, Georgian/Lezgin; South Asian, Onge).

A second observation was inspired by the following figure:

High IBD sharing with Romanians makes sense, because there is good evidence (e.g., presence of Y-haplogroup E-V13) that the Roma picked up European ancestry in the Balkans. So, I'm fairly sure that we are seeing a real signal that the Roma have Romanian-like recent European ancestors. But, we ought to be vigilant, because it is possible that some Romanians may have Roma ancestry too!  This was the case in a couple of individuals from the Romanian sample of Behar et al. (2010).

This is a more general issue: IBD sharing occasionally involves strictly -or mostly- unidirectional gene flow,  e.g., sharing between European and African Americans largely went EA->AA way, so an AA sharing with a EA more often than not involves EA->AA gene flow.

But, in other cases, the direction of gene flow is more obscure (so, e.g., sharing between German, Magyar, and Slavic speakers, and Jews in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire). This issue often comes up in the genealogical community, with a typical example being a couple of individuals (let's call them Klaus and Mikolaj) discovering a shared IBD segment, and Klaus thinking he's found a Polish ancestor, and Mikolaj a German one.

In any case, as the authors themselves note it will be interesting to use more European reference populations, and this might indicate whether they picked up European ancestry in one particular region, carrying it with them as they expanded into the Balkans and beyond, or whether they picked it up by interacting with different host populations (e.g., Greek Gypsies with Greeks, Romanian Gypsies with Romanians, and so on).

arXiv:1212.1696 [q-bio.PE]

Reconstructing Roma history from genome-wide data

Priya Moorjani et al.

The Roma people, living throughout Europe, are a diverse population linked by the Romani language and culture. Previous linguistic and genetic studies have suggested that the Roma migrated into Europe from South Asia about 1000-1500 years ago. Genetic inferences about Roma history have mostly focused on the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA. To explore what additional information can be learned from genome-wide data, we analyzed data from six Roma groups that we genotyped at hundreds of thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We estimate that the Roma harbor about 80% West Eurasian ancestry-deriving from a combination of European and South Asian sources- and that the date of admixture of South Asian and European ancestry was about 850 years ago. We provide evidence for Eastern Europe being a major source of European ancestry, and North-west India being a major source of the South Asian ancestry in the Roma. By computing allele sharing as a measure of linkage disequilibrium, we estimate that the migration of Roma out of the Indian subcontinent was accompanied by a severe founder event, which we hypothesize was followed by a major demographic expansion once the population arrived in Europe.


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