Human Genetics

, Volume 134, Issue 6, pp 637–647 | Cite as

West Eurasian mtDNA lineages in India: an insight into the spread of the Dravidian language and the origins of the caste system

  • Malliya Gounder PalanichamyEmail author
  • Bikash Mitra
  • Cai-Ling Zhang
  • Monojit Debnath
  • Gui-Mei Li
  • Hua-Wei Wang
  • Suraksha Agrawal
  • Tapas Kumar Chaudhuri
  • Ya-Ping ZhangEmail author
Original Investigation


There is no indication from the previous mtDNA studies that west Eurasian-specific subclades have evolved within India and played a role in the spread of languages and the origins of the caste system. To address these issues, we have screened 14,198 individuals (4208 from this study) and analyzed 112 mitogenomes (41 new sequences) to trace west Eurasian maternal ancestry. This has led to the identification of two autochthonous subhaplogroups—HV14a1 and U1a1a4, which are likely to have originated in the Dravidian-speaking populations approximately 10.5–17.9 thousand years ago (kya). The carriers of these maternal lineages might have settled in South India during the time of the spread of the Dravidian language. In addition to this, we have identified several subsets of autochthonous U7 lineages, including U7a1, U7a2b, U7a3, U7a6, U7a7, and U7c, which seem to have originated particularly in the higher-ranked caste populations in relatively recent times (2.6–8.0 kya with an average of 5.7 kya). These lineages have provided crucial clues to the differentiation of the caste system that has occurred during the recent past and possibly, this might have been influenced by the Indo-Aryan migration. The remaining west Eurasian lineages observed in the higher-ranked caste groups, like the Brahmins, were found to cluster with populations who possibly arrived from west Asia during more recent times.


Indian Population Caste System Muslim Population Caste Group Dravidian Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by Yunnan University, the Yunnan provincial Science and Technology Department and from Grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31060156 and 31240018).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

439_2015_1547_MOESM1_ESM.xls (280 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLS 279 kb) Supplementary Table S1. Distribution of west Eurasian haplogroups in India. Supplementary Table S2. List of samples screened for west Eurasian haplogroups. Supplementary Table S3. West Eurasian haplogroup frequencies (%) in Regional, Social and Linguistic-subgroups of Indian populations
439_2015_1547_MOESM2_ESM.ppt (290 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PPT 290 kb) Supplementary Figures S1-S6: Phylogenetic tree of west Eurasian haplogroups H*, H2, H3 g, H5a1, H7b, H9, H13a, H15a1a, H103, V2, HV*, HV2a, HV6b, HV12b1, R0a2, JT, K1, U2e, U3-U5a1, R1, R2, W, and N1a. Mutations are scored relative to the revised Cambridge reference sequence (rCRS) (Andrews et al. 1999) and displayed along the branches. The prefix ‘‘@’’ indicates back mutation, recurrent mutations are underlined, transversions have a base suffix, ‘‘d’’ deletions and ‘‘+’’ insertions, and the poly(C) region in HVS-I and -II as well as 16519 is excluded. The geographic origin of the sample and the accession number which is retrieved from the publication are given above the branches


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malliya Gounder Palanichamy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bikash Mitra
    • 1
    • 3
  • Cai-Ling Zhang
    • 1
  • Monojit Debnath
    • 2
    • 5
  • Gui-Mei Li
    • 1
  • Hua-Wei Wang
    • 1
  • Suraksha Agrawal
    • 4
  • Tapas Kumar Chaudhuri
    • 3
  • Ya-Ping Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-resourcesYunnan UniversityKunmingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and EvolutionKunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of SciencesKunmingChina
  3. 3.Cellular Immunology Laboratory, Department of ZoologyUniversity of North BengalSiliguriIndia
  4. 4.Department of Medical GeneticsSanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical SciencesLucknowIndia
  5. 5.Department of Human GeneticsNational Institute of Mental Health and NeurosciencesBangaloreIndia

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