The Basques according to polymorphic Alu insertions.

de Pancorbo MM, Lopez-Martinez M, Martinez-Bouzas C, Castro A, Fernandez-Fernandez I, de Mayolo GA, de Mayolo AA, de Mayolo PA, Rowold DJ, Herrera RJ.

Departamento de Zoologia y Dinamica Celular Animal, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad del Pais Vasco, 48940 Leioa, Bizkaia, Spain.

Polymorphic Alu insertions provide a set of DNA markers of interest in human population genetics. Approximately 1000-2000 of these insertions have not reached fixation within the human genome. Each one of these polymorphic loci most probably resulted from a unique insertional event, and therefore all individuals possessing the insertion are related by descent not just state. In addition, the direction of mutational change is toward the gain of the Alu element at a particular locus. Therefore, the improved knowledge of both the ancestral state and the direction of mutational change greatly facilitates the analysis of population relationships. As a result, Alu insertion polymorphisms represent a significant tool for population genetic studies. In this study, polymorphic Alu insertions have been employed to ascertain phylogenetic relationships among Basque groups and worldwide populations. The Basques are considered to be a geographic isolate with a unique language and customs. They may be direct descendants of Cro-Magnon enclaves from the upper Paleolithic (38,000 to 10,000 years). The Basques are distributed among narrow valleys in northeastern Spain with little migration between them until recently. This characteristic may have had an effect on allelic frequency distributions. With the aim of studying this possible effect, we have analyzed six autosomal polymorphic Alu loci from four different sites within the Spanish Basque region in order to ascertain any genetic heterogeneity among the Basques. The results are consistent with a lack of homogeneity among these four autochthonous Basque groups.