, Volume 115, Issue 5, pp 439-447

Insights into the western Bantu dispersal: mtDNA lineage analysis in Angola

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Abstract

Africa is the homeland of humankind and it is known to harbour the highest levels of human genetic diversity. However, many continental regions, especially in the sub-Saharan side, still remain largely uncharacterized (i.e. southwest and central Africa). Here, we examine the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in a sample from Angola. The two mtDNA hypervariable segments as well as the 9-bp tandem repeat on the COII/tRNAlys intergenic region have allowed us to allocate mtDNAs to common African haplogroups. Angola lies in the southern end of the putative western branch of the Bantu expansion, where it met the local Khoisan populations. Angolan mtDNA lineages show basically a Bantu substrate with no traces of Khoisan lineages. Roughly, more than half of the southwestern mtDNA pool can be assigned to west Africa, ~25% to central Africa and a significant 16% to east Africa, which points to the western gene pool having contributed most to the mtDNA lineages in Angola. We have also detected signals of extensive gene flow from southeast Africa. Our results suggest that eastern and western Bantu expansion routes were not independent from each other, and were connected south of the rainforest and along the southern African savannah. In agreement with historical documentation, the analysis also showed that the Angola mtDNA genetic pool shows affinities with the African lineages from Brazil, the main American destination of the slaves from Angola, although not all lineages in Brazil can be accounted for by the Angolan mtDNA pool.