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Y-STR variation in the Basque diaspora in the Western USA: evolutionary and forensic perspectives

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Individuals of Basque origin migrated in large numbers to the Western USA in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the flow continued with less intensity during the last century. The European source population, that of the Basque Country, has long been a cultural and geographical isolate. Previous studies have demonstrated that Y-STR frequencies of Basques are different from those of other Spanish and European populations [1]. The Basque diaspora in the Western USA is a recent migration, but the founder effect and the incorporation of new American Y chromosomes into the paternal genetic pool of the Basque diaspora could have influenced its genetic structure and could thus have practical implications for forensic genetics. To check for genetic substructure among the European source and Basque diaspora populations and determine the most suitable population database for the Basque diaspora in the Western USA, we have analysed the haplotype distribution of 17 Y-STRs in both populations. We have found that the Basque diaspora in the Western USA largely conserve the Y chromosome lineage characteristic of the autochthonous European Basque population with no statistically significant differences. This implies that a common 17 Y-STR Basque population database could be used to calculate identification or kinship parameters regardless of whether the Basque individuals are from the European Basque Country or from the Basque diaspora in the Western USA.

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Funds were provided by the Basque Government (BIOMICs Research Group IT424-07). LV received a grant from the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU. The technical and human support provided by DNA Bank-General Research Services SGIker (UPV/EHU, Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation MICINN, Basque Government GV/EJ, European Regional Development Fund ERDF and European Science Foundation ESF) is gratefully acknowledged, especially to M.A. The authors would like to thank Alfonso Sánchez for his statistical support. The authors would also like to thank the Basque Foundation for Health Research and Innovation (BIOEF). We are grateful to G. Eguskiza for his technical support and to E. Sanz and O. Alvarez for their assistance in sample collection. The authors are deeply indebted to the Basque communities of the Western USA, which cooperated generously to the development of this study, especially to P. Miller, J. Navarte and J. Isurza.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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Correspondence to Marian M. de Pancorbo.

Electronic supplementary materials

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Online Resource 1

Advantages of Basque surnames in population sample selection (PPT 161 kb)

Online Resource 2

Fst and Rst genetic distances between populations, Fst and Rst pairwise p values and MDS based on Rst genetic distances (XLS 226 kb)

Online Resource 3

Similarity between the 11 Y-STR haplotype data from the Basque Country previously available in the YHRD database and our new 17 Y-STR data (XLS 23 kb)

Online Resource 4

Shared haplotypes between the Basque diaspora in the Western USA, its European Basque source population and ethnic American subpopulations (XLS 27 kb)

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Valverde, L., Rosique, M., Köhnemann, S. et al. Y-STR variation in the Basque diaspora in the Western USA: evolutionary and forensic perspectives. Int J Legal Med 126, 293–298 (2012).

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