, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 339-350
Date: 16 Aug 2001

Genomic structures and population histories of linguistically distinct tribal groups of India

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There are various conflicting hypotheses regarding the origins of the tribal groups of India, who belong to three major language groups – Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian and Tibeto-Burman. To test some of the major hypotheses we designed a genetic study in which we sampled tribal populations belonging to all the three language groups. We used a set of autosomal DNA markers, mtDNA restriction-site polymorphisms (RSPs) and mtDNA hypervariable segment-1 (HVS-1) sequence polymorphisms in this study. Using the unlinked autosomal markers we found that there is a fair correspondence between linguistic and genomic affinities among the Indian tribal groups. We reconstructed mtDNA RSP haplotypes and found that there is extensive haplotype sharing among all tribal populations. However, there is very little sharing of mtDNA HVS-1 sequences across populations, and none across language groups. Haplogroup M is ubiquitous, and the subcluster U2i of haplogroup U occurs in a high frequency. Our analyses of haplogroup and HVS-1 sequence data provides evidence in support of the hypothesis that the Austro-Asiatic speakers are the most ancient inhabitants of India. Our data also support the earlier finding that some of the western Eurasian haplogroups found in India may have been present in India prior to the entry of Aryan speakers. However, we do not find compelling evidence to support the theory that haplogroup M was brought into India on an "out of Africa" wave of migration through a southern exit route from Ethiopia. On the contrary, our data raise the possibility that this haplogroup arose in India and was later carried to East Africa from India.

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