Genetic Heritage of the Balto-Slavic Speaking Populations: A Synthesis of Autosomal, Mitochondrial and Y-Chromosomal Data

PLoS One. 2015 Sep 2;10(9):e0135820. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135820. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

The Slavic branch of the Balto-Slavic sub-family of Indo-European languages underwent rapid divergence as a result of the spatial expansion of its speakers from Central-East Europe, in early medieval times. This expansion-mainly to East Europe and the northern Balkans-resulted in the incorporation of genetic components from numerous autochthonous populations into the Slavic gene pools. Here, we characterize genetic variation in all extant ethnic groups speaking Balto-Slavic languages by analyzing mitochondrial DNA (n = 6,876), Y-chromosomes (n = 6,079) and genome-wide SNP profiles (n = 296), within the context of other European populations. We also reassess the phylogeny of Slavic languages within the Balto-Slavic branch of Indo-European. We find that genetic distances among Balto-Slavic populations, based on autosomal and Y-chromosomal loci, show a high correlation (0.9) both with each other and with geography, but a slightly lower correlation (0.7) with mitochondrial DNA and linguistic affiliation. The data suggest that genetic diversity of the present-day Slavs was predominantly shaped in situ, and we detect two different substrata: 'central-east European' for West and East Slavs, and 'south-east European' for South Slavs. A pattern of distribution of segments identical by descent between groups of East-West and South Slavs suggests shared ancestry or a modest gene flow between those two groups, which might derive from the historic spread of Slavic people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Europe
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Gene Pool*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide

Substances

  • DNA, Mitochondrial