The impact of Converso Jews on the genomes of modern Latin Americans

Abstract

Modern day Latin America resulted from the encounter of Europeans with the indigenous peoples of the Americas in 1492, followed by waves of migration from Europe and Africa. As a result, the genomic structure of present day Latin Americans was determined both by the genetic structure of the founding populations and the numbers of migrants from these different populations. Here, we analyzed DNA collected from two well-established communities in Colorado (33 unrelated individuals) and Ecuador (20 unrelated individuals) with a measurable prevalence of the BRCA1 c.185delAG and the GHR c.E180 mutations, respectively, using Affymetrix Genome-wide Human SNP 6.0 arrays to identify their ancestry. These mutations are thought to have been brought to these communities by Sephardic Jewish progenitors. Principal component analysis and clustering methods were employed to determine the genome-wide patterns of continental ancestry within both populations using single nucleotide polymorphisms, complemented by determination of Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. When examining the presumed European component of these two communities, we demonstrate enrichment for Sephardic Jewish ancestry not only for these mutations, but also for other segments as well. Although comparison of both groups to a reference Hispanic/Latino population of Mexicans demonstrated proximity and similarity to other modern day communities derived from a European and Native American two-way admixture, identity-by-descent and Y-chromosome mapping demonstrated signatures of Sephardim in both communities. These findings are consistent with historical accounts of Jewish migration from the realms that comprise modern Spain and Portugal during the Age of Discovery. More importantly, they provide a rationale for the occurrence of mutations typically associated with the Jewish Diaspora in Latin American communities.

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Acknowledgments

This project was supported in part by a grant from the Lewis and Rachel Rudin Foundation. The authors thank Peter Feldman and Jeff Wheelwright for their advice and guidance.

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Correspondence to H. Ostrer.

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C. Velez, P. F. Palamara, and J. Guevara-Aguirre contributed equally to the work.

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Velez, C., Palamara, P.F., Guevara-Aguirre, J. et al. The impact of Converso Jews on the genomes of modern Latin Americans. Hum Genet 131, 251–263 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00439-011-1072-z

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Keywords

  • Jewish Community
  • Bloom Syndrome
  • Latin American Population
  • Jewish Ancestry
  • TaqMan Allelic Discrimination Assay