Genomic microsatellites identify shared Jewish ancestry intermediate between Middle Eastern and European populations

BMC Genet. 2009 Dec 8;10:80. doi: 10.1186/1471-2156-10-80.


Background: Genetic studies have often produced conflicting results on the question of whether distant Jewish populations in different geographic locations share greater genetic similarity to each other or instead, to nearby non-Jewish populations. We perform a genome-wide population-genetic study of Jewish populations, analyzing 678 autosomal microsatellite loci in 78 individuals from four Jewish groups together with similar data on 321 individuals from 12 non-Jewish Middle Eastern and European populations.

Results: We find that the Jewish populations show a high level of genetic similarity to each other, clustering together in several types of analysis of population structure. Further, Bayesian clustering, neighbor-joining trees, and multidimensional scaling place the Jewish populations as intermediate between the non-Jewish Middle Eastern and European populations.

Conclusion: These results support the view that the Jewish populations largely share a common Middle Eastern ancestry and that over their history they have undergone varying degrees of admixture with non-Jewish populations of European descent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Europe / ethnology
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Jews / genetics*
  • Microsatellite Repeats*
  • Middle East / ethnology