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Am J Hum Biol. 2008 Sep-Oct;20(5):584-91. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.20783.

The mtDNA ancestry of admixed Colombian populations.

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Unidade de Xenética, Instituto de Medicina Legal, Facultade de Medicina, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 15782 Galicia, Spain.


A total of 185 individuals from Colombia were sequenced for the first hypervariable region (HVS-I) of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome, and a subset of these individuals were additionally genotyped for the second hypervariable segment (HVS-II). These individuals were collected according to their "self-reported ethnicity" in Colombia, comprising "Mestizos," "Mulatos," and "Afro-Colombians." We used databases containing more than 4,300 Native American lineages, 6,800 Africans, and 15,600 Europeans for population comparisons and phylogeographic inferences. We observe that Mulatos and Afro-Colombians have a dominant African mtDNA component, whereas Mestizos carry predominantly Native American haplotypes. All the populations analyzed have high diversity indices and there are no signatures of dramatic genetic drift episodes. Central and South America are the main candidate source populations of the Colombian Native American lineages, whereas west-central, southwest, and southeast Africa are the main original mtDNA sources for the African Colombian mtDNAs. We found that our results differ from those obtained in other studies for the same "population groups" in terms of haplogroup frequencies. This observation leads us to conclude that (i) self-reported ancestry is not a reliable proxy to indicate an individual's "ethnicity" in Colombia, (ii) our results do not support the use of outmoded race descriptions (Mestizos, Mulatos, etc.) mainly because these labels do not correspond to any genetically homogeneous population group, and (iii) studies relying on these terms to describe the population group of the individual, which then treat them as genetically homogeneous, carry a high risk of type I error (false positives) in medical studies in this country and of misinterpretation of the frequency of observed variation in forensic casework.

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