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Am J Hum Genet. 1996 Sep;59(3):579-90.

mtDNA polymorphism in East Asian Populations, with special reference to the peopling of Japan.

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Department of Human Genetics, National Institute of Genetics, Shizuoka, Japan.


Nucleotide sequences of the major noncoding (D-loop) region of human mtDNA from five East Asian populations including mainland Japanese, Ainu, Ryukyuans, Koreans, and Chinese were analyzed. On the basis of a comparison of 482-bp sequences in 293 East Asians, 207 different sequence types were observed. Of these, 189 were unique to their respective populations, whereas 18 were shared between two or three populations. Among the shared types, eight were found in common between the mainland Japanese and Koreans, which is the largest number in the comparison. The intergenic COII/tRNA(Lys) 9-bp deletion was observed in every East Asian population with varying frequencies. The D-loop sequence variation suggests that the deletion event occurred only once in the ancestry of East Asians. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that East Asian lineages were classified into at least 18 monophyletic clusters, though lineages from the five populations were completely intermingled in the phylogenetic tree. However, we assigned 14 of the 18 clusters for their specificity on the basis of the population from which the maximum number of individuals in each cluster was derived. Of note is the finding that 50% of the mainland Japanese had continental specificity in which Chinese or Koreans were dominant, while < 20% of either Ryukyuans or Ainu possessed continental specificity. Phylogenetic analysis of the entire human population revealed the closest genetic affinity between the mainland Japanese and Koreans. Thus, the results of this study are compatible with the hybridization model on the origin of modern Japanese. It is suggested that approximately 65% of the gene pool in mainland Japanese was derived from the continental gene flow after the Yayoi Age.

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