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Hum Biol. 1994 Aug;66(4):567-90.

Polynesian mitochondrial DNAs reveal three deep maternal lineage clusters.

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Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu 96822.


The 4000-year-old human population expansion into Remote Oceania has been studied from a variety of genetic perspectives. Here, we report the discovery that Polynesians, traditionally considered to be a single cohesive linguistic and cultural unit, exhibit at least three distinct mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) groups that probably shared a common maternal ancestor more than 85,000 years ago. The major lineage groups were first identified by PCR amplification of the mitochondrial region V deletion marker, known to be present at high frequency in Polynesian populations. Sequence analysis of mtDNA hypervariable control regions reveals a surprising number of lineages in Polynesia. We also note high sequence divergence between lineage groups deleted and not deleted in region V. Major group I lineages are common in Remote Oceania and include about 95% of the Native Hawaiian, 90% of the Samoan, and 100% of the Tongan donors in our sample. They contain the region V deletion and generally share three control region transition substitutions. This group also contains non-Polynesian individuals, such as Indonesians, Native Americans, Micronesians, Malaysians, Japanese, and Chinese. The group I Polynesians differ by 4.4% in sequence identity from major lineage group II Polynesians, who do not have the region V deletion and who share among themselves four distinct single-base substitutions. Group II individuals are seen at low frequency (< 10%) in Hawaii, Samoa, and the Cook Islands and may represent the predominant maternal lineage group of Papuan Melanesia. Major lineage group III, not found in Hawaii, tentatively links Samoa to Indonesia. Our observation of deep maternal genetic branches in Polynesia today confirms the notion that during the colonization of the Pacific, mainland Asian immigrants mixed with Melanesian peoples already inhabiting Near Oceania and carried a complex assortment of maternal genotypes derived from two distinct geographic sources to isolated island archipelagoes.

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