Revisiting the male genetic landscape of China: a multi-center study of almost 38,000 Y-STR haplotypes

Abstract

China has repeatedly been the subject of genetic studies to elucidate its prehistoric and historic demography. While some studies reported a genetic distinction between Northern and Southern Han Chinese, others showed a more clinal picture of small differences within China. Here, we investigated the distribution of Y chromosome variation along administrative as well as ethnic divisions in the mainland territory of the People’s Republic of China, including 28 administrative regions and 19 recognized Chinese nationalities, to assess the impact of recent demographic processes. To this end, we analyzed 37,994 Y chromosomal 17-marker haplotype profiles from the YHRD database with respect to forensic diversity measures and genetic distance between groups defined by administrative boundaries and ethnic origin. We observed high diversity throughout all Chinese provinces and ethnicities. Some ethnicities, including most prominently Kazakhs and Tibetans, showed significant genetic differentiation from the Han and other groups. However, differences between provinces were, except for those located on the Tibetan plateau, less pronounced. This discrepancy is explicable by the sizeable presence of Han speakers, who showed high genetic homogeneity all across China, in nearly all studied provinces. Furthermore, we observed a continuous genetic North–South gradient in the Han, confirming previous reports of a clinal distribution of Y chromosome variation and being in notable concordance with the previously observed spatial distribution of autosomal variation. Our findings shed light on the demographic changes in China accrued by a fast-growing and increasingly mobile population.

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Change history

  • 11 June 2020

    Editor’s Note: Concerns have been raised about the ethics approval and informed consent procedures related to the research reported in this paper. The paper includes the following author declarations: "A total of 37,994 unrelated males were sampled with informed consent". Editorial action will be taken as appropriate once an investigation of the concerns is complete and all parties have been given an opportunity to respond in full.

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Correspondence to Michael Nothnagel.

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Funding

Hongbing Yao was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Gansu Province (1308RJZA190), Scientific Research Project for Colleges of Gansu Province (2014A-085), Evidence Science, Technology and Application for Key Laboratory Foundation of Gansu Province (ZDSYS-Y20) and Gansu Institute of Political Science and Law Foundation Project (GZF2011XQNLW45). Lagabaiyila Zha’s work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation for Youth (81302621). Xiufen Zheng received a grant by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31260267). Hongyu Sun was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81273347, 81671873), and Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (16ykzd08). Hui Li received funding from MOE Scientific Research Project (113022A), NSFC31671297, MOST2016YFC0900300, and Shanghai Shuguang Project (14SG05). Lei Wang and Zhaoshu Zeng were supported by The Key Scientific Research Project for Higher Institutions of Henan Provincial Education Department (15A180021). Weibo Liang’s work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81471827, 81671871).

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Nothnagel, M., Fan, G., Guo, F. et al. Revisiting the male genetic landscape of China: a multi-center study of almost 38,000 Y-STR haplotypes. Hum Genet 136, 485–497 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00439-017-1759-x

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Keywords

  • Match Probability
  • Discrimination Capacity
  • Ethnic Division
  • Chromosomal Haplotype
  • Random Match Probability