Article

European Journal of Human Genetics (2006) 14, 497–504. doi:10.1038/sj.ejhg.5201578; published online 25 January 2006

Highly discrepant proportions of female and male Scandinavian and British Isles ancestry within the isolated population of the Faroe Islands

Thomas D Als1, Tove H Jorgensen1, Anders D Børglum2, Peter A Petersen3, Ole Mors1 and August G Wang4,5

  1. 1Centre for Basic Psychiatric Research, Aarhus University Hospital, Risskov, Denmark
  2. 2Institute of Human Genetics, University of Aarhus, Denmark
  3. 3The Faroese Church, Copenhagen, Denmark
  4. 4Department of Psychiatry, Landssjúkrahusid (National Hospital), Torshavn, Faroe Islands
  5. 5Department of Psychiatry, Amager Hospital, Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen S, Denmark

Correspondence: Dr TD Als, Centre for Basic Psychiatric Research, Aarhus University Hospital, Skovagervej 2, Risskov DK-8240, Denmark. Tel: +45 77893505; Fax: +45 77893599; E-mail: tda@psykiatri.aaa.dk

Received 9 September 2005; Revised 13 December 2005; Accepted 14 December 2005; Published online 25 January 2006.

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Abstract

The Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean are inhabited by a small population, whose origin is thought to date back to the Viking Age. Historical, archaeological and linguistic evidence indicates that the present population of the Faroe Islands may have a mixture of Scandinavian and British Isles ancestry. In the present study we used 122 new and 19 previously published hypervariable region I sequences of the mitochondrial control region to analyse the genetic diversity of the Faroese population and compare it with other populations in the North Atlantic region. The analyses suggested that the Faroese mtDNA pool has been affected by genetic drift, and is among the most homogenous and isolated in the North Atlantic region. This will have implications for attempts to locate genes for complex disorders. To obtain estimates of Scandinavian vs British Isles ancestry proportions, we applied a frequency-based admixture approach taking private haplotypes into account by the use of phylogenetic information. While previous studies have suggested an excess of Scandinavian ancestry among the male settlers of the Faroe Islands, the current study indicates an excess of British Isles ancestry among the female settlers of the Faroe Islands. Compared to other admixed populations of the North Atlantic region, the population of the Faroe Islands appears to have the highest level of asymmetry in Scandinavian vs British Isles ancestry proportions among female and male settlers of the archipelago.

Keywords:

mtDNA, genetic diversity, ancestry proportions, Faroe Islands, North Atlantic region

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