Analysis of mitochondrial DNA diversity in the aleuts of the commander islands and its implications for the genetic history of beringia

Am J Hum Genet. 2002 Aug;71(2):415-21. doi: 10.1086/341720. Epub 2002 Jun 25.


The Aleuts are aboriginal inhabitants of the Aleutian archipelago, including Bering and Copper (Medny) Islands of the Commanders, and seem to be the survivors of the inhabitants of the southern belt of the Bering Land Bridge that connected Chukotka/Kamchatka and Alaska during the end of the Ice Age. Thirty mtDNA samples collected in the Commanders, as well as seven mtDNA samples from Sireniki Eskimos in Chukotka who belong to the Beringian-specific subhaplogroup D2, were studied through complete sequencing. This analysis has provided evidence that all 37 of these mtDNAs are closely related, since they share the founding haplotype for subhaplogroup D2. We also demonstrated that, unlike the Eskimos and Na-Dene, the Aleuts of the Commanders were founded by a single lineage of haplogroup D2, which had acquired the novel transversion mutation 8910A. The phylogeny of haplogroup D complete sequences showed that (1) the D2 root sequence type originated among the latest inhabitants of Beringia and (2) the Aleut 8910A sublineage of D2 is a part of larger radiation of rooted D2, which gave rise to D2a (Na-Dene), D2b (Aleut), and D2c (Eskimo) sublineages. The geographic specificity and remarkable intrinsic diversity of D2 lineages support the refugial hypothesis, which assumes that the founding population of Eskimo-Aleut originated in Beringan/southwestern Alaskan refugia during the early postglacial period, rather than having reached the shores of Alaska as the result of recent wave of migration from interior Siberia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Mitochondrial*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Inuit*
  • Phylogeny
  • Point Mutation
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • DNA, Mitochondrial