Contrasting signatures of population growth for mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosomes among human populations in Africa

Mol Biol Evol. 2008 Mar;25(3):517-25. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msm279. Epub 2007 Dec 18.


A history of Pleistocene population expansion has been inferred from the frequency spectrum of polymorphism in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of many human populations. Similar patterns are not typically observed for autosomal and X-linked loci. One explanation for this discrepancy is a recent population bottleneck, with different rates of recovery for haploid and autosomal loci as a result of their different effective population sizes. This hypothesis predicts that mitochondrial and Y chromosomal DNA will show a similar skew in the frequency spectrum in populations that have experienced a recent increase in effective population size. We test this hypothesis by resequencing 6.6 kb of noncoding Y chromosomal DNA and 780 basepairs of the mtDNA cytochrome c oxidase subunit III (COIII) gene in 172 males from 5 African populations. Four tests of population expansion are employed for each locus in each population: Fu's Fs statistic, the R(2) statistic, coalescent simulations, and the mismatch distribution. Consistent with previous results, patterns of mtDNA polymorphism better fit a model of constant population size for food-gathering populations and a model of population expansion for food-producing populations. In contrast, none of the tests reveal evidence of Y chromosome growth for either food-gatherers or food-producers. The distinct mtDNA and Y chromosome polymorphism patterns most likely reflect sex-biased demographic processes in the recent history of African populations. We hypothesize that males experienced smaller effective population sizes and/or lower rates of migration during the Bantu expansion, which occurred over the last 5,000 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Population Density*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Electron Transport Complex IV