Article

European Journal of Human Genetics (2012) 20, 441–448; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2011.200; published online 23 November 2011

Sephardic signature in haplogroup T mitochondrial DNA

Felice L Bedford1

1University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

Correspondence: Dr FL Bedford, University of Arizona, PO Box 210068, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA. Tel: +1 520 404 2669; Fax: +1 520 621 9306; E-mail: bedford@u.arizona.edu

Received 2 February 2011; Revised 19 September 2011; Accepted 29 September 2011
Advance online publication 23 November 2011

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Abstract

A rare combination of mutations within mitochondrial DNA subhaplogroup T2e is identified as affiliated with Sephardic Jews, a group that has received relatively little attention. Four investigations were pursued: Search of the motif in 250000 control region records across 8 databases, comparison of frequencies of T subhaplogroups (T1, T2b, T2c, T2e, T4, T*) across 11 diverse populations, creation of a phylogenic median-joining network from public T2e control region entries, and analysis of one Sephardic mitochondrial full genomic sequence with the motif. It was found that the rare motif belonged only to Sephardic descendents (Turkey, Bulgaria), to inhabitants of North American regions known for secret Spanish–Jewish colonization, or were consistent with Sephardic ancestry. The incidence of subhaplogroup T2e decreased from the Western Arabian Peninsula to Italy to Spain and into Western Europe. The ratio of sister subhaplogroups T2e to T2b was found to vary 40-fold across populations from a low in the British Isles to a high in Saudi Arabia with the ratio in Sephardim more similar to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Italy than to hosts Spain and Portugal. Coding region mutations of 2308G and 14499T may locate the Sephardic signature within T2e, but additional samples and reworking of current T2e phylogenetic branch structure is needed. The Sephardic Turkish community has a less pronounced founder effect than some Ashkenazi groups considered singly (eg, Polish), but other comparisons of interest await comparable averaging. Registries of signatures will benefit the study of populations with a large number of smaller-size founders.

Keywords:

mitochondrial DNA; sephardim; haplogroup T; founder effect; subhaplogroup T2; Iberia