Afghanistan's unique geostrategic position in Eurasia has historically attracted commerce, conflict and conquest to the region. It was also an important stop along the Silk Road, connecting the far eastern civilizations with the western world. Nevertheless, limited genetic studies have been performed in Afghan populations. In this study, 17 Y-chromosomal short tandem repeat (Y-STR) loci were typed to evaluate their forensic and population genetic applications in 189 unrelated Afghan males geographically partitioned along the Hindu Kush Mountain range into north (N=44) and south (N=145) populations. North Afghanistan (0.9734, 0.9905) exhibits higher haplotype diversity than south Afghanistan (0.9408, 0.9813) at both the minimal 9-loci and 17-loci Yfiler haplotypes, respectively. The overall haplotype diversity for both Afghan populations at 17 Y-STR loci is 0.9850 and the corresponding value for the minimal 9-loci haplotypes is 0.9487. A query using of the most frequent Afghan Yfiler haplotype (7.98%) against the worldwide Y-STR haplotype reference database (YHRD) returned no profile match, indicating a high power of discrimination with 17 Y-STR loci. A median-joining network based on 15 Y-STR loci displays limited haplotype sharing between the two Afghan populations, possibly due to the Hindu Kush Mountain range serving as a natural barrier to gene flow between the two regions.
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