Different matrilineal contributions to genetic structure of ethnic groups in the Silk Road region in China

  • Yao Y
  • Kong Q
  • Wang C
 et al. 
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Previous studies have shown that there were extensive genetic admixtures in the Silk Road region. In the present study, we analyzed 252 mtDNAs of five ethnic groups (Uygur, Uzbek, Kazak, Mongolian, and Hui) from Xinjiang Province, China (through which the Silk Road once ran) together with some reported data from the adjacent regions in Central Asia. In a simple way, we classified the mtDNAs into different haplogroups (monophyletic clades in the rooted mtDNA tree) according to the available phylogenetic information and compared their frequencies to show the differences among the matrilineal genetic structures of these populations with different demographic histories. With the exception of eight unassigned M*, N*, and R* mtDNAs, all the mtDNA types identified here belonged to defined subhaplogroups of haplogroups M and N (including R) and consisted of subsets of both the eastern and western Eurasian pools, thus providing direct evidence supporting the suggestion that Central Asia is the location of genetic admixture of the East and the West. Although our samples were from the same geographic location, a decreasing tendency of the western Eurasian-specific haplogroup frequency was observed, with the highest frequency present in Uygur (42.6%) and Uzbek (41.4%) samples, followed by Kazak (30.2%), Mongolian (14.3%), and Hui (6.7%). No western Eurasian type was found in Han Chinese samples from the same place. The frequencies of the eastern Eurasian-specific haplogroups also varied in these samples. Combined with the historical records, ethno-origin, migratory history, and marriage customs might play different roles in shaping the matrilineal genetic structure of different ethnic populations residing in this region.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Admixture
  • Ethnic group
  • Haplogroup
  • Migration
  • Silk Road
  • mtDNA

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