Reconstructing Roma history from genome-wide data

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58633. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058633. Epub 2013 Mar 13.

Abstract

The Roma people, living throughout Europe and West Asia, are a diverse population linked by the Romani language and culture. Previous linguistic and genetic studies have suggested that the Roma migrated into Europe from South Asia about 1,000-1,500 years ago. Genetic inferences about Roma history have mostly focused on the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA. To explore what additional information can be learned from genome-wide data, we analyzed data from six Roma groups that we genotyped at hundreds of thousands of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We estimate that the Roma harbor about 80% West Eurasian ancestry-derived from a combination of European and South Asian sources-and that the date of admixture of South Asian and European ancestry was about 850 years before present. We provide evidence for Eastern Europe being a major source of European ancestry, and North-west India being a major source of the South Asian ancestry in the Roma. By computing allele sharing as a measure of linkage disequilibrium, we estimate that the migration of Roma out of the Indian subcontinent was accompanied by a severe founder event, which appears to have been followed by a major demographic expansion after the arrival in Europe.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Asia / ethnology
  • Ethnic Groups / genetics*
  • Ethnic Groups / history*
  • Europe / ethnology
  • Founder Effect
  • Gene Flow / genetics
  • Genome, Human*
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics