Patterns of admixture and population structure in native populations of Northwest North America

PLoS Genet. 2014 Aug 14;10(8):e1004530. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004530. eCollection 2014 Aug.


The initial contact of European populations with indigenous populations of the Americas produced diverse admixture processes across North, Central, and South America. Recent studies have examined the genetic structure of indigenous populations of Latin America and the Caribbean and their admixed descendants, reporting on the genomic impact of the history of admixture with colonizing populations of European and African ancestry. However, relatively little genomic research has been conducted on admixture in indigenous North American populations. In this study, we analyze genomic data at 475,109 single-nucleotide polymorphisms sampled in indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, populations with a well-documented history of contact with European and Asian traders, fishermen, and contract laborers. We find that the indigenous populations of the Pacific Northwest have higher gene diversity than Latin American indigenous populations. Among the Pacific Northwest populations, interior groups provide more evidence for East Asian admixture, whereas coastal groups have higher levels of European admixture. In contrast with many Latin American indigenous populations, the variance of admixture is high in each of the Pacific Northwest indigenous populations, as expected for recent and ongoing admixture processes. The results reveal some similarities but notable differences between admixture patterns in the Pacific Northwest and those in Latin America, contributing to a more detailed understanding of the genomic consequences of European colonization events throughout the Americas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genomics*
  • Haplotypes / genetics*
  • Humans
  • North America
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide


  • DNA, Mitochondrial

Grant support

This work was supported by US National Science Foundation grants BCS-1025139 and BCS-1147534. AGO was funded in part by the Mexican Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología No. 101791. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.