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. 2008 May 7;3(5):e2105.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002105.

The Druze: A Population Genetic Refugium of the Near East

Free PMC article

The Druze: A Population Genetic Refugium of the Near East

Liran I Shlush et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


Background: Phylogenetic mitochondrial DNA haplogroups are highly partitioned across global geographic regions. A unique exception is the X haplogroup, which has a widespread global distribution without major regions of distinct localization.

Principal findings: We have examined mitochondrial DNA sequence variation together with Y-chromosome-based haplogroup structure among the Druze, a religious minority with a unique socio-demographic history residing in the Near East. We observed a striking overall pattern of heterogeneous parental origins, consistent with Druze oral tradition, together with both a high frequency and a high diversity of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) X haplogroup within a confined regional subpopulation. Furthermore demographic modeling indicated low migration rates with nearby populations.

Conclusions: These findings were enabled through the use of a paternal kindred based sampling approach, and suggest that the Galilee Druze represent a population isolate, and that the combination of a high frequency and diversity of the mtDNA X haplogroup signifies a phylogenetic refugium, providing a sample snapshot of the genetic landscape of the Near East prior to the modern age.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Haplogroup X in Galilee Druze.
Figure 1A: Median-joining (MJ) network of the 41× haplogroup samples. The MJ algorithm was implemented within the Network 4112 program. Areas of the colored nodes are proportional to haplotype frequencies. Each different color represents a different lineage. Nomenclature of node name: the first three characters of each node indicate the X haplogroup haplotype nomenclature according to Reidla Asterisks designate samples whose genotype does not match any of the currently designated subhaplogroups. The fourth character defines the Druze Galilee village in which the haplotype was the most prevalent, according to maternal ancestry. B = Beit Jaan; H = Hurfeish; J = Julis; L = Lebanon; P = Peq'in; S = Sajur; Y = Yirka. The fifth character indicates the haplotype serial number. CRS = the Cambridge Reference Sequence. Nucleotide changes are specified by suffixes only for transversions; insertions and deletions are not designated. Figure 1B: The geographic distribution of the various Druze X haplogroup lineages in the Galilee region. Node names and colors are identical to those in figure 1A.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Migration Rates and Population Divergence Times among Near East Populations.
Demographic modeling using the IM application applied to mtDNA HVS-I sequences (nucleotides 16067–16384) from various Near East populations. Red bars = Druze with other Near East populations. Purple bars = Near East populations among themselves. Migration rates represent the mode of the posterior distribution of the number of migrants per generation. The divergence time is in thousand of years. The following populations were used: 311 Druze from the current study. Sequences reported in Macaulay et al : Egyptians (Egypt) 67 samples; Iraqis (Iraq) 116 samples; Syrians (Syria) 69 samples; Palestinians (Pales) 110 samples; Turks (Turk) 218 samples; Armenians (Armenian) 191 samples; Adygei (Adyg) 50 samples; Greeks (Greece) 65 samples; Swedes (Swe) 32 samples; Nowegians (Nor) 231 samples; Basques (Basq) 156 samples. Sequences reported by Hammer : Bedouins (Bedouin) 58 samples. Sequences reported by Metspalu : Iranian (Iran) 436 samples. Sequences reported by Thomas :Ashkenazi Jews (Ashkenazi) 78 samples Ethiopians (Ethiop) 74 samples.

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