The Complex and Diversified Mitochondrial Gene Pool of Berber Populations

The Complex and Diversified Mitochondrial Gene Pool of Berber Populations
C. Coudray 1*, A. Olivieri 2 , A. Achilli 2,3 , M. Pala 2 , M. Melhaoui 4 , M. Cherkaoui 5 , F. El-Chennawi 6 , M. Kossmann 7 , A. Torroni 2 and J. M. Dugoujon 1, 2008

The mitochondrial DNA variation of 295 Berber-speakers from Morocco (Asni, Bouhria and Figuig) and the Egyptian oasis of Siwa was evaluated by sequencing a portion of the control region (including HVS-I and part of HVS-II) and surveying haplogroup-specific coding region markers. Our findings show that the Berber mitochondrial pool is characterized by an overall high frequency of Western Eurasian haplogroups, a somehow lower frequency of sub-Saharan L lineages, and a significant (but differential) presence of North African haplogroups U6 and M1, thus occupying an intermediate position between European and sub-Saharan populations in PCA analysis. A clear and significant genetic differentiation between the Berbers from Maghreb and Egyptian Berbers was also observed. The first are related to European populations as shown by haplogroup H1 and V frequencies, whereas the latter share more affinities with East African and Nile Valley populations as indicated by the high frequency of M1 and the presence of L0a1, L3i, L4*, and L4b2 lineages. Moreover, haplogroup U6 was not observed in Siwa. We conclude that the origins and maternal diversity of Berber populations are old and complex, and these communities bear genetic characteristics resulting from various events of gene flow with surrounding and migrating populations.

Thanks to Antoine for sending me this. Anyone curious just how long these mt types have been there, they’ve found them all in 12,000 year old bones from Morocco.


4 responses to “The Complex and Diversified Mitochondrial Gene Pool of Berber Populations

  1. I always appreciate when you write about the Berbers and North African DNA, as this is the group I have married into! I’m always interested in finding out more about my husband and my daughter’s DNA. Furthermore, there isn’t a lot commonly known here about before Roman times, it’s all just word of mouth. Most people here seem to get taught in school that the the Berbers are descended from the(Lebanese) Phoenecians who founded ancient colonies in Morocco.

    Expat 21
    “Expat Abroad”

  2. Quote from the study

    “The purpose of this study was to analyze for the first time the mitochondrial gene pool of North African populations in a broad phylogeographic context, in particular through a comparison with population groups from southern Europe, the Saharan areas and the Near East.

    Analysis of the 62 populations included in our haplogroup frequency database revealed
    that Berber populations are genetically close to southern Europeans, but significantly differentiated from sub-Saharan groups.

    This peculiarity is explained by their mitochondrial genetic structure, characterized by an overall high frequency of Western Eurasian haplogroups, a somehow lower frequency of sub-Saharan L lineages, and a significant (but differential) presence of North African haplogroups U6 and M1.

    The genetic proximity observed between the Berbers and southern Europeans reveals that these groups shared a common ancestor.

    Two hypotheses are discussed: one would date these common origins in the Upper Paleolithic with the expansion of anatomically modern humans, from the Near East to both shores of the Mediterranean Sea; the other supports the Near Eastern origin, but would rather date it from the Neolithic, around 10,000 years ago (Ammerman & Cavalli-Sforza 1973; Barbujani et al. 1994; Myles et al. 2005; Rando et al. 1998).

    Common polymorphisms (i.e. those defining H and V lineages) between Berbers and south Europeans also could have been introduced or supported by genetic flows through the Straits of Gibraltar. For example, genetic exchanges could have taken place during prehistory, while European populations retreated from ice sheets and expanded from refuge, around 15,000 years ago (as evidenced by the H and U5b mitochondrial lineages).

    Alternatively, these exchanges could have occurred during history, with the invasion and the occupation during nearly seven centuries (from the 8th to the 15th century) of the Iberian Peninsula by Almoravide then Almohade Muslim Berber troops.”

  3. My great grandfather was one generation removed from american slavery. He was very, very dark skinned and had blue eyes I am trying to figure out how this occurred. His mother and father both slave had no other racial mixing and were most likely his coloring. It is rare to see someone his color with blue eyes. Many light interracially mixed folks are the exception in the black race. I am wondering if this is the missing link in trying to find where in Africa could the blue eyed gene be passed on from. This has given me great insight.

    • I think the average black American is about 21% European. Blue eyes are a recessive gene that can lurk for generations before you spot it.

      The mutation for blue eyes is about 6,000 years old and from Northern Europe. Unless you have a form of Albinism, blue eyes means you’ve got a European ancestor somewhere.

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