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Human Genetics

, Volume 121, Issue 1, pp 137–144 | Cite as

Y-chromosomal insights into the genetic impact of the caste system in India

  • Tatiana Zerjal
  • Arpita Pandya
  • Kumarasamy Thangaraj
  • Edmund Y. S. Ling
  • Jennifer Kearley
  • Stefania Bertoneri
  • Silvia Paracchini
  • Lalji Singh
  • Chris Tyler-Smith
Original Investigation

Abstract

The caste system has persisted in Indian Hindu society for around 3,500 years. Like the Y chromosome, caste is defined at birth, and males cannot change their caste. In order to investigate the genetic consequences of this system, we have analysed male-lineage variation in a sample of 227 Indian men of known caste, 141 from the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh and 86 from the rest of India. We typed 131 Y-chromosomal binary markers and 16 microsatellites. We find striking evidence for male substructure: in particular, Brahmins and Kshatriyas (but not other castes) from Jaunpur each show low diversity and the predominance of a single distinct cluster of haplotypes. These findings confirm the genetic isolation and drift within the Jaunpur upper castes, which are likely to result from founder effects and social factors. In the other castes, there may be either larger effective population sizes, or less strict isolation, or both.

Keywords

Y chromosome Haplotype Human population substructure Indian caste system 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank all sample donors for participating in this project, and Kamal Bagai for help with sample collection. We also thank Ed Southern for his interest and contribution to this work, Yali Xue with advice on data analysis and Denise Carvalho-Silva for comments on the manuscript. TZ and CTS are supported by The Wellcome Trust.

Supplementary material

439_2006_282_MOESM1_ESM.xls (70 kb)
Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tatiana Zerjal
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Arpita Pandya
    • 2
  • Kumarasamy Thangaraj
    • 3
  • Edmund Y. S. Ling
    • 2
    • 5
  • Jennifer Kearley
    • 2
    • 6
  • Stefania Bertoneri
    • 2
    • 7
  • Silvia Paracchini
    • 2
    • 5
  • Lalji Singh
    • 3
  • Chris Tyler-Smith
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Wellcome Trust Sanger InstituteWellcome Trust Genome CampusHinxtonUK
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  3. 3.Centre for Cellular and Molecular BiologyHyderabadIndia
  4. 4.Station de Génétique VégétaleFerme du MoulonGif-sur-YvetteFrance
  5. 5.Wellcome Trust Centre for Human GeneticsOxfordUK
  6. 6.Leukocyte Biology SectionNational Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial CollegeLondonUK
  7. 7.Anthropology Unit, Department of Ethnology, Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of PisaPisaItaly

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