Background: The genetic structure, affinities, and diversity of the 1 billion Indians hold important keys to numerous unanswered questions regarding the evolution of human populations and the forces shaping contemporary patterns of genetic variation. Although there have been several recent studies of South Indian caste groups, North Indian caste groups, and South Indian Muslims using Y-chromosomal markers, overall, the Indian population has still not been well studied compared to other geographical populations. In particular, no genetic study has been conducted on Shias and Sunnis from North India.
Aim: This study aims to investigate genetic variation and the gene pool in North Indians.
Subjects and methods: A total of 32 Y-chromosomal markers in 560 North Indian males collected from three higher caste groups (Brahmins, Chaturvedis and Bhargavas) and two Muslims groups (Shia and Sunni) were genotyped.
Results: Three distinct lineages were revealed based upon 13 haplogroups. The first was a Central Asian lineage harbouring haplogroups R1 and R2. The second lineage was of Middle-Eastern origin represented by haplogroups J2*, Shia-specific E1b1b1, and to some extent G* and L*. The third was the indigenous Indian Y-lineage represented by haplogroups H1*, F*, C* and O*. Haplogroup E1b1b1 was observed in Shias only.
Conclusion: The results revealed that a substantial part of today's North Indian paternal gene pool was contributed by Central Asian lineages who are Indo-European speakers, suggesting that extant Indian caste groups are primarily the descendants of Indo-European migrants. The presence of haplogroup E in Shias, first reported in this study, suggests a genetic distinction between the two Indo Muslim sects. The findings of the present study provide insights into prehistoric and early historic patterns of migration into India and the evolution of Indian populations in recent history.