Original Article

Journal of Human Genetics (2007) 52, 308–316; doi:10.1007/s10038-007-0113-x

Population history of the Dniester-Carpathians: evidence from Alu markers

Alexander Varzari1,2,6, Wolfgang Stephan2, Vadim Stepanov7, Florina Raicu3, Radu Cojocaru4, Yuri Roschin5, Cristiana Glavce3, Valentin Dergachev6, Maria Spiridonova7, Horst D Schmidt8 and Elisabeth Weiss2

  1. 1National Center of Reproductive Health and Medical Genetics, Burebista str. 82, 2062 Kishinev, Moldova
  2. 2Biocentre, Ludwigs-Maximilian University Munich, Grosshaderner Strasse 2, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany
  3. 3Anthropological Research Centre "Francisc Rainer", Romanian Academy, B-dul Eroii Sanitari 8, Sector 5, Bucharest, Romania
  4. 4National Scientific and Practical Centre for Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health, Gheorghi Asachi 67, 2028 Kishinev, Moldova
  5. 5Medical Diagnostical Centre "Modus Vivendi", Kishinev, Moldova, Burebista str. 80, 2062 Kishinev, Moldova
  6. 6Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Academy of Sciences of Moldova, Banulescu-Bodoni str. 35, 2012 Kishinev, Moldova
  7. 7Research Institute of Medical Genetics, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Nab. Ushayky 10, 634050 Tomsk, Russia
  8. 8Department of Anthropology, University of Ulm, Parkstrasse 11, 89073 Ulm, Germany

Correspondence: Alexander Varzari, National Center of Reproductive Health and Medical Genetics, Burebista str. 82, 2062 Kishinev, Moldova. E-mail: a_varsahr@yahoo.com

Received 11 November 2006; Accepted 3 January 2007; Published online 16 February 2007.

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Abstract

The area between the Dniester and the eastern Carpathian mountain range is at a geographical crossroads between eastern Europe and the Balkans. Little is known about the genetics of the population of this region. We performed an analysis of 12 binary autosomal markers in samples from six Dniester-Carpathian populations: two Moldavian, one Romanian, one Ukrainian and two Gagauz populations. The results were compared with gene frequency data from culturally and linguistically related populations from Southeast Europe and Central Asia. Small genetic differences were found among southeastern European populations (in particular those of the Dniester-Carpathian region). The observed homogeneity suggests either a very recent common ancestry of all southeastern European populations or strong gene flow between them. Despite this low level of differentiation, tree reconstruction and principle component analyses allowed a distinction between Balkan-Carpathian (Macedonians, Romanians, Moldavians, Ukrainians and Gagauzes) and eastern Mediterranean (Turks, Greeks and Albanians) population groups. The genetic affinities among Dniester-Carpathian and southeastern European populations do not reflect their linguistic relationships. The results indicate that the ethnic and genetic differentiations occurred in these regions to a considerable extent independently of each other. In particular, Gagauzes, a Turkic-speaking population, show closer affinities to their geographical neighbors than to other Turkic populations.

Keywords:

Alu insertion, DNA polymorphism, Moldavians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Gagauzes, Population structure