Joining the pillars of Hercules: mtDNA sequences show multidirectional gene flow in the western Mediterranean

Ann Hum Genet. 2003 Jul;67(Pt 4):312-28. doi: 10.1046/j.1469-1809.2003.00039.x.


Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) performed in Western Mediterranean populations has shown that both shores share a common set of mtDNA haplogroups already found in Europe and the Middle East. Principal co-ordinates of genetic distances and principal components analyses based on the haplotype frequencies show that the main genetic difference is attributed to the higher frequency of sub-Saharan L haplogroups in NW Africa, showing some gene flow across the Sahara desert, with a major impact in the southern populations of NW Africa. The AMOVA demonstrates that SW European populations are highly homogeneous whereas NW African populations display a more heterogeneous genetic pattern, due to an east-west differentiation as a result of gene flow coming from the East. Despite the shared haplogroups found in both areas, the European V and the NW African U6 haplogroups reveal the traces of the Mediterranean Sea permeability to female migrations, and allowed for determination and quantification of the genetic contribution of both shores to the genetic landscape of the geographic area. Comparison of mtDNA data with autosomal markers and Y-chromosome lineages, analysed in the same populations, shows a congruent pattern, although female-mediated gene flow seems to have been more intense than male-mediated gene flow.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Geography
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mediterranean Region
  • Phylogeny*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Mitochondrial