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Ancient DNA Reveals That the Genetic Structure of the Northern Han Chinese Was Shaped Prior to 3,000 Years Ago

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Ancient DNA Reveals That the Genetic Structure of the Northern Han Chinese Was Shaped Prior to 3,000 Years Ago

Yong-Bin Zhao et al. PLoS One.

Abstract

The Han Chinese are the largest ethnic group in the world, and their origins, development, and expansion are complex. Many genetic studies have shown that Han Chinese can be divided into two distinct groups: northern Han Chinese and southern Han Chinese. The genetic history of the southern Han Chinese has been well studied. However, the genetic history of the northern Han Chinese is still obscure. In order to gain insight into the genetic history of the northern Han Chinese, 89 human remains were sampled from the Hengbei site which is located in the Central Plain and dates back to a key transitional period during the rise of the Han Chinese (approximately 3,000 years ago). We used 64 authentic mtDNA data obtained in this study, 27 Y chromosome SNP data profiles from previously studied Hengbei samples, and genetic datasets of the current Chinese populations and two ancient northern Chinese populations to analyze the relationship between the ancient people of Hengbei and present-day northern Han Chinese. We used a wide range of population genetic analyses, including principal component analyses, shared mtDNA haplotype analyses, and geographic mapping of maternal genetic distances. The results show that the ancient people of Hengbei bore a strong genetic resemblance to present-day northern Han Chinese and were genetically distinct from other present-day Chinese populations and two ancient populations. These findings suggest that the genetic structure of northern Han Chinese was already shaped 3,000 years ago in the Central Plain area.

Conflict of interest statement

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

Figures

Fig 1
Fig 1. Geographic location of the Hengbei (HB) and Central Plain regions.
HB is marked by a yellow circle, and the Central Plain region is indicated by a cyan ellipse. XN population is marked by a black circle, and XB populations are marked by two grey circles. The red area marked on the map represents the location of the southern Han, and the green area marked in China represents the location of the northern Han. The human remains and sacrificial vessels in the two photos in the lower right corner were both excavated from the Hengbei site.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Principal component plot of ancient and present-day Chinese populations.
(a) mtDNA haplogroup frequency plot. For each population’s code, see S3 Table. (b) Y-chromosome haplogroup frequency plot. For each population’s code, see S4 Table.
Fig 3
Fig 3. Percentage of haplotypes found in Hengbei individuals and matched in various present-day populations of China.
Fig 4
Fig 4. The genetic matrilineal distances between HB and current Chinese populations.
(a) FST values between HB and the Han Chinese. (b) FST values between HB and the minorities of China. For each population’s code, see S3 Table.

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Grant support

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31371266), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31200936), the National Science Foundation for Fostering Talents in Basic Research of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. J1210007), the National Social Science Foundation of China (Grant No.11&ZD182), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31301025). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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