Geographic variation in human mitochondrial DNA control region sequence: the population history of Turkey and its relationship to the European populations.

Comas D, Calafell F, Mateu E, Perez-Lezaun A, Bertranpetit J.

The hypervariable segment I of the control region of the mtDNA (positions 16024-16383) was amplified from hair roots by PCR and sequenced in 45 unrelated individuals from Anatolia (Asian Turkey). Forty different sequences were found, defined by 56 variable positions, of which only one involves a transversion.

The neighbor-joining tree of Kimura's distance matrix for all sequences shows four main clusters. Cluster D was found to be the most statistically robust of the four, and all the sequences in it shared a mutation that is present only in European and West Asian populations. The variability in cluster D could have originated between 37,000 and 107,000 years ago. No branch is unexpectedly long, denoting the absence of sequences that diverged much before the others. The pairwise difference distribution is bell-shaped, in accordance with a population expansion occurring roughly 35,000 to 100,000 years ago.

When compared to other Caucasoid populations through the pairwise difference distribution, there is a pattern from the Middle East (older expansion) to the various European populations, with Turkey in an intermediate position; when Turkish sequences are compared through a neighbor-joining tree on a genetic distance matrix of populations, this position is again evidenced.

Although there is a very low level of genetic divergence among Caucasoid populations as shown by mtDNA control region sequences, a geographic pattern of genetic variation emerges, denoting a stepping-stone position of Turkey between the Middle East and Europe, which is in agreement with the hypothesis of a replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans, which could be related to the Upper Paleolithic cultural expansion.