Genetic differentiation in South Amerindians is related to environmental and cultural diversity: evidence from the Y chromosome.

Tarazona-Santos E, Carvalho-Silva DR, Pettener D, Luiselli D, De Stefano GF, Labarga CM, Rickards O, Tyler-Smith C, Pena SD, Santos FR.

Departamento de Bioquimica e Imunologia, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The geographic structure of Y-chromosome variability has been analyzed in native populations of South America, through use of the high-frequency Native American haplogroup defined by the DYS199-T allele and six Y-chromosome-linked microsatellites (DYS19, DYS389A, DYS389B, DYS390, DYS391, and DYS393), analyzed in 236 individuals. The following pattern of within- and among-population variability emerges from the analysis of microsatellite data: (1) the Andean populations exhibit significantly higher levels of within-population variability than do the eastern populations of South America; (2) the spatial-autocorrelation analysis suggests a significant geographic structure of Y-chromosome genetic variability in South America, although a typical evolutionary pattern could not be categorically identified; and (3) genetic-distance analyses and the analysis of molecular variance suggest greater homogeneity between Andean populations than between non-Andean ones. On the basis of these results, we propose a model for the evolution of the male lineages of South Amerindians that involves differential patterns of genetic drift and gene flow. In the western part of the continent, which is associated with the Andean area, populations have relatively large effective sizes and gene-flow levels among them, which has created a trend toward homogenization of the gene pool. On the other hand, eastern populations-settled in the Amazonian region, the central Brazilian plateau, and the Chaco region-have exhibited higher rates of genetic drift and lower levels of gene flow, with a resulting trend toward genetic differentiation. This model is consistent with the linguistic and cultural diversity of South Amerindians, the environmental heterogeneity of the continent, and the available paleoecological data.