Differential contribution of indigenous men and women to the formation of an urban population in the Amazon region as revealed by mtDNA and Y-DNA

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1999 Jun;109(2):175-80. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199906)109:2<175::AID-AJPA3>3.0.CO;2-#.


The human populations of the Brazilian Amazon were formed by interethnic crosses between Europeans, Africans, and Amerindians. The relative contribution of men and women of different ethnic groups was not homogeneous, since the social policies of the first three centuries of Brazilian colonization encouraged mating between European men and indigenous women and, later on, African women. In order to test this model based on historical data, we compared the relative contribution of the Y-DNA and mtDNA of Amerindian and non-Amerindian populations to the formation of the urban population of the town of Belém, in the Amazon region, on the basis of a C-->T mutation at locus DYS199 present in 90% of the Amerindian Y-DNA and of five markers that define 99% of the mitochondrial sequences of Amerindians. The contribution of indigenous men to the formation of this population was less than 5%, whereas the contribution of indigenous women was estimated at more than 50% of the mitochondrial sequences of the same population. Thus, the present results demonstrate that the contribution of indigenous women to the formation of the Belém population was 10 times higher than the contribution of indigenous men, a genetic consequence of social behavior and attitudes of the past; our results also help clarify the process of integration of indigenous communities into the urban societies in Brazil and possibly in other countries.

MeSH terms

  • Brazil
  • DNA / blood
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Variation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Urban Population*
  • Y Chromosome / genetics*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Genetic Markers
  • DNA