European Journal of Human Genetics (2015) 23, 1413–1422; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2014.285; published online 14 January 2015

Y-chromosome descent clusters and male differential reproductive success: young lineage expansions dominate Asian pastoral nomadic populations

Patricia Balaresque1,2, Nicolas Poulet3,7, Sylvain Cussat-Blanc4,7, Patrice Gerard1, Lluis Quintana-Murci5, Evelyne Heyer6,8 and Mark A Jobling2,8

  1. 1UMR 5288, Faculté de Médecine Purpan, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Moléculaire et Imagerie de Synthèse (AMIS), CNRS/Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France
  2. 2Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  3. 3Onema, Direction de l’Action Scientifique et Technique, Toulouse, France
  4. 4UMR5505- CNRS, Université de Toulouse, Toulouse, France
  5. 5CNRS URA3012, Unit of Human Evolutionary Genetics, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France
  6. 6Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie, UMR 7206 CNRS, MNHN, Université Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Sorbonne Universités, Paris, France

Correspondence: Dr P Balaresque, UMR 5288, Faculté de Médecine Purpan, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Moléculaire et Imagerie de Synthèse (AIMS), CNRS/Université Paul Sabatier, 37 allées Jules Guesde, 31073 Toulouse, France. Tel: +33 5 61 14 55 04; Fax: +33 5 61 14 55 04; E-mail:; Professor MA Jobling, Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK. Tel: +44 116 252 3427; Fax: +44 116 252 3378; E-mail:

7These authors contributed equally to this work.

8These authors contributed equally to this work.

Received 31 July 2014; Revised 25 November 2014; Accepted 28 November 2014
Advance online publication 14 January 2015



High-frequency microsatellite haplotypes of the male-specific Y-chromosome can signal past episodes of high reproductive success of particular men and their patrilineal descendants. Previously, two examples of such successful Y-lineages have been described in Asia, both associated with Altaic-speaking pastoral nomadic societies, and putatively linked to dynasties descending, respectively, from Genghis Khan and Giocangga. Here we surveyed a total of 5321 Y-chromosomes from 127 Asian populations, including novel Y-SNP and microsatellite data on 461 Central Asian males, to ask whether additional lineage expansions could be identified. Based on the most frequent eight-microsatellite haplotypes, we objectively defined 11 descent clusters (DCs), each within a specific haplogroup, that represent likely past instances of high male reproductive success, including the two previously identified cases. Analysis of the geographical patterns and ages of these DCs and their associated cultural characteristics showed that the most successful lineages are found both among sedentary agriculturalists and pastoral nomads, and expanded between 2100 BCE and 1100 CE. However, those with recent origins in the historical period are almost exclusively found in Altaic-speaking pastoral nomadic populations, which may reflect a shift in political organisation in pastoralist economies and a greater ease of transmission of Y-chromosomes through time and space facilitated by the use of horses.