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, 7 (11), e48904

Tracing the Origin of the East-West Population Admixture in the Altai Region (Central Asia)

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Tracing the Origin of the East-West Population Admixture in the Altai Region (Central Asia)

Mercedes González-Ruiz et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

A recent discovery of Iron Age burials (Pazyryk culture) in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia may shed light on the mode and tempo of the generation of the current genetic east-west population admixture in Central Asia. Studies on ancient mitochondrial DNA of this region suggest that the Altai Mountains played the role of a geographical barrier between West and East Eurasian lineages until the beginning of the Iron Age. After the 7th century BC, coinciding with Scythian expansion across the Eurasian steppes, a gradual influx of East Eurasian sequences in Western steppes is detected. However, the underlying events behind the genetic admixture in Altai during the Iron Age are still unresolved: 1) whether it was a result of migratory events (eastward firstly, westward secondly), or 2) whether it was a result of a local demographic expansion in a 'contact zone' between European and East Asian people. In the present work, we analyzed the mitochondrial DNA lineages in human remains from Bronze and Iron Age burials of Mongolian Altai. Here we present support to the hypothesis that the gene pool of Iron Age inhabitants of Mongolian Altai was similar to that of western Iron Age Altaians (Russia and Kazakhstan). Thus, this people not only shared the same culture (Pazyryk), but also shared the same genetic east-west population admixture. In turn, Pazyryks appear to have a similar gene pool that current Altaians. Our results further show that Iron Age Altaians displayed mitochondrial lineages already present around Altai region before the Iron Age. This would provide support for a demographic expansion of local people of Altai instead of westward or eastward migratory events, as the demographic event behind the high population genetic admixture and diversity in Central Asia.

Conflict of interest statement

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

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Pazyryk burials from the Altai Mountains.
A. Geographical location of Pazyryk culture sites in the Altai regions of South Siberia, Kazakhstan and Western Mongolia. B. Pazyryk burial from Baga Turgen Gol site, Bayan-Ölgiy province, Western Mongolia.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Spatial frequency distribution maps of East Eurasian lineages.
A- Pre-Iron Age period; B- Iron Age period. Frequency values and detailed information for populations 1–8 are shown in table 3. 1- Mongolia (Altai), 2- Gorny Altai, 3- West Kazakhstan, 4- Central Kazakhstan, 5- South Kazakhstan, 6- East Kazakhstan, 7- SW Siberia, 8- Mongolia (Egyin Gol).
Figure 3
Figure 3. Median Joining Network of ancient N* haplogroup sequences.
MtDNA sequences between positions 16051 and 16400, from ancient populations from the Mongolia (present study and [1], [2]), Russia , , , , Kazakhstan and China , , were used. Additional information concerning each population can be found in Table S2.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Median Joining Network of ancient M* haplogroup sequences.
MtDNA sequences between positions 16051 and 16400, from ancient populations from the Mongolia (present study and [1], [2]), Russia , , , , Kazakhstan and China , , were used. Additional information concerning each population can be found in Table S2.
Figure 5
Figure 5. Multidimensional scaling representation of the Slatkin’s linearized FST pairwise genetic distance matrices between populations.
Genetic distance based on HVRI variation of ancient and current Eurasian populations. Ancient populations (in red): AMGBR- Mongolia Altai Bronze Age, present study; PAZMG1- Mongolia Altai, Pazyryk, present study; PAZMG2- Mongolia Altai, Pazyryk; EGOL - Mongolia, Egyin Gol; PAZRA- Rep. Altai, Pazyryk; BRNRA- Rep. Altai, Neolithic and Bronze Age; SBBR- Siberia, Bronze Age; SBIR- Siberia, Iron Age; KZBR- Kazakhstan, Bronze Age; KZIR- Kazakhstan, Iron Age; LAJ- Lajia; YUAN- Xinjiang; INMG- Inner Mongolia. Current populations (in black): CRT- Crimean Tartars; TURK- Turks; KZAZ- Kurds Zazaki; KKUR- Kurds Kurmanji; IRAN- Iraqis; KGEO- Georgians Kurds; GEOR- Georgians; KYR- Kirgiz; UZB- Uzbeks; KAZ- Kazaks; TURKM- Turkmens; TAJ- Tajiks; MONG- Mongols; TUV- Tuvans; TUB- Tubalars; ALT- Altaians; BUR- Buriats; KAL- Kalmiks; SIB- Siberians. Additional information concerning each population can be found in Table S2.

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Grant support

The authors acknowledge the following grants: Generalitat de Catalunya: SRG 2009- 566; European Union, INTERREG III: I3A-10-319-E; Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Gobierno de España, Programa Juan de la Cierva: JCI-2010-08157. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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