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Genetics. 1992 Jan;130(1):153-62.

Native American mitochondrial DNA analysis indicates that the Amerind and the Nadene populations were founded by two independent migrations.

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  • 1Center for Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322.


Mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) from 167 American Indians including 87 Amerind-speakers (Amerinds) and 80 Nadene-speakers (Nadene) were surveyed for sequence variation by detailed restriction analysis. All Native American mtDNAs clustered into one of four distinct lineages, defined by the restriction site variants: HincII site loss at np 13,259, AluI site loss at np 5,176, 9-base pair (9-bp) COII-tRNA(Lys) intergenic deletion and HaeIII site gain at np 663. The HincII np 13,259 and AluI np 5,176 lineages were observed exclusively in Amerinds and were shared by all such tribal groups analyzed, thus demonstrating that North, Central and South American Amerinds originated from a common ancestral genetic stock. The 9-bp deletion and HaeIII np 663 lineages were found in both the Amerinds and Nadene but the Nadene HaeIII np 663 lineage had a unique sublineage defined by an RsaI site loss at np 16,329. The amount of sequence variation accumulated in the Amerind HincII np 13,259 and AluI np 5,176 lineages and that in the Amerind portion of the HaeIII np 663 lineage all gave divergence times in the order of 20,000 years before present. The divergence time for the Nadene portion of the HaeIII np 663 lineage was about 6,000-10,000 years. Hence, the ancestral Nadene migrated from Asia independently and considerably more recently than the progenitors of the Amerinds. The divergence times of both the Amerind and Nadene branches of the COII-tRNA(Lys) deletion lineage were intermediate between the Amerind and Nadene specific lineages, raising the possibility of a third source of mtDNA in American Indians.

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