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Hum Immunol. 2001 Sep;62(9):954-69.

Mitochondrial DNA variation in an aboriginal Australian population: evidence for genetic isolation and regional differentiation.

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  • 1Laboratory of Genetics, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.


The mitochondrial DNA (mt-DNA) variation of in the Walbiri tribe of the Northern Territories, Australia, was characterized by high resolution restriction fragment length polymorphism (HR-RFLP) analysis and control region sequencing. Surveying each mt-DNA for RFLPs with 14 different restriction enzymes detected 24 distinct haplotypes, whereas direct sequencing of the control region hypervariable segment I (HVS-I) of these mt-DNAs revealed 34 distinct sequences. Phylogenetic analysis of the RFLP haplotype and HVS-I sequence data depicted that the Walbiri have ten distinct haplotype groups (haplogroups), or mt-DNA lineages. The majority of the Walbiri RFLP haplotypes lacked polymorphisms common to Asian populations. In fact, most of the Walbiri haplogroups were unique to this population, although a few appeared to be subbranches of larger clusters of mt-DNAs that included other Aboriginal Australian and/or Papua New Guinea haplotypes. The similarity of these haplotypes suggested that Aboriginal Australian and Papua New Guinea populations may have once shared an ancient ancestral population(s), and then rapidly diverged from each other once geographically separated. Overall, the mt-DNA data corroborate the genetic uniqueness of Aboriginal Australian populations.

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