Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 9 (4), e96074
eCollection

An Ancient Mediterranean Melting Pot: Investigating the Uniparental Genetic Structure and Population History of Sicily and Southern Italy

Affiliations

An Ancient Mediterranean Melting Pot: Investigating the Uniparental Genetic Structure and Population History of Sicily and Southern Italy

Stefania Sarno et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

Due to their strategic geographic location between three different continents, Sicily and Southern Italy have long represented a major Mediterranean crossroad where different peoples and cultures came together over time. However, its multi-layered history of migration pathways and cultural exchanges, has made the reconstruction of its genetic history and population structure extremely controversial and widely debated. To address this debate, we surveyed the genetic variability of 326 accurately selected individuals from 8 different provinces of Sicily and Southern Italy, through a comprehensive evaluation of both Y-chromosome and mtDNA genomes. The main goal was to investigate the structuring of maternal and paternal genetic pools within Sicily and Southern Italy, and to examine their degrees of interaction with other Mediterranean populations. Our findings show high levels of within-population variability, coupled with the lack of significant genetic sub-structures both within Sicily, as well as between Sicily and Southern Italy. When Sicilian and Southern Italian populations were contextualized within the Euro-Mediterranean genetic space, we observed different historical dynamics for maternal and paternal inheritances. Y-chromosome results highlight a significant genetic differentiation between the North-Western and South-Eastern part of the Mediterranean, the Italian Peninsula occupying an intermediate position therein. In particular, Sicily and Southern Italy reveal a shared paternal genetic background with the Balkan Peninsula and the time estimates of main Y-chromosome lineages signal paternal genetic traces of Neolithic and post-Neolithic migration events. On the contrary, despite showing some correspondence with its paternal counterpart, mtDNA reveals a substantially homogeneous genetic landscape, which may reflect older population events or different demographic dynamics between males and females. Overall, both uniparental genetic structures and TMRCA estimates confirm the role of Sicily and Southern Italy as an ancient Mediterranean melting pot for genes and cultures.

Conflict of interest statement

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

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Spatial Principal Component Analysis (sPCA) based on Y-chromosome haplogroups frequencies.
The first two global components, sPC1 (a) and sPC2 (b), are depicted. Positive values are represented by black squares; negative values are represented by white squares; the size of the square is proportional to the absolute value of sPC scores.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Discriminant Analysis of Principal Components (DAPC) based on Y-chromosome sPC1-identified structure.
The barplot represents DAPC-based posterior membership probabilities for each of the considered populations to belong at each of the two sPC1-identified groups (white = South-Eastern Mediterranean; black = North-Western Mediterranean). Population codes as in Table S1.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Spatial Principal Component Analysis (sPCA) based on mtDNA haplogroups frequencies.
The first two global components sPC1 (a) and sPC2 (b) are depicted. Positive values are represented by black squares; negative values are represented by white squares; the size of the square is proportional to the absolute value of sPC scores.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Admixture-like barplots for Y-chromosome (a) and mtDNA (b).
The barplots represent DAPC-based posterior membership probabilities for each of the considered populations and for each inferred cluster (mclust algorithm). The affiliation of each population to a given cluster and its corresponding colour code are represented by letters (within coloured squares) on the top of each bar. Labels: NAFR: North-Africa, LEV: Levant, BALK: Balkans, SSI: Sicily and South-Italy, NCI: North-Central Italy, IBE: Iberian Peninsula, GER: Germany.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 14 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

References

    1. Sazzini M, Sarno S, Luiselli D (2013) The Mediterranean human population: an Anthropological Genetics perspective. In: Goffredo S, Baader H, Dubinsky Z, editors. The Mediterranean Sea: Its History and Present Challenges. Berlin: Springer, pp. 529–551.
    1. Mannino MA, Thomas KD (2007) New radiocarbon dates for hunter-gatherers and early farmers in Sicily. Accordia Research Papers 10: 13–34.
    1. Mannino MA, Di Salvo R, Schimmenti V, Di Patti C, Incarbona A, et al. (2011) Upper Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer subsistence in Mediterranean coastal environments: an isotopic study of the diets of the oldest directly-dated humans from Sicily. J Archaeol Sci 38: 3094–3100 10.1016/j.jas.2011.07.009 - DOI
    1. Caramelli D, Lalueza-Fox C, Vernesi C, Lari M, Casoli A, et al. (2003) Evidence for a genetic discontinuity between Neandertals and 24,000-year-old anatomically modern Europeans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U.S.A. 100: 6593–6597 10.1073/pnas.1130343100 - DOI - PMC - PubMed
    1. Mannino MA, Catalano G, Talamo S, Mannino G, Di Salvo R, et al. (2012) Origin and diet of the prehistoric hunter-gatherers on the mediterranean island of Favignana (Ègadi Islands, Sicily). PLoS One. 7: e49802 10.1371/journal.pone.0049802 - DOI - PMC - PubMed

Publication types

Substances

Grant support

This study was supported by the ERC Langelin Project grant (FP7-Ideas-ERC2011-AdG295733) to DP and DL. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Feedback