Y-Chromosome and mtDNA Genetics Reveal Significant Contrasts in Affinities of Modern Middle Eastern Populations with European and African Populations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Danielle A. Badro
  • Bouchra Douaihy
  • Marc Haber
  • Sonia C. Youhanna
  • Angélique Salloum
  • And 9 others
  • Michella Ghassibe-Sabbagh
  • Brian Johnsrud
  • Georges Khazen
  • Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith
  • David F. Soria-Hernanz
  • R. Spencer Wells
  • Chris Tyler-Smith
  • Daniel E. Platt
  • Pierre A. Zalloua

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Lebanese American University
  • Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-UPF)
  • Pompeu Fabra University
  • Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA
  • University of Otago
  • National Geographic Society
  • Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Wellcome Trust Genome Campus
  • IBM Research Division, T.J. Watson Research Center
  • Harvard School of Public Health


The Middle East was a funnel of human expansion out of Africa, a staging area for the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution, and the home to some of the earliest world empires. Post LGM expansions into the region and subsequent population movements created a striking genetic mosaic with distinct sex-based genetic differentiation. While prior studies have examined the mtDNA and Y-chromosome contrast in focal populations in the Middle East, none have undertaken a broad-spectrum survey including North and sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Middle Eastern populations. In this study 5,174 mtDNA and 4,658 Y-chromosome samples were investigated using PCA, MDS, mean-linkage clustering, AMOVA, and Fisher exact tests of FST's, RST's, and haplogroup frequencies. Geographic differentiation in affinities of Middle Eastern populations with Africa and Europe showed distinct contrasts between mtDNA and Y-chromosome data. Specifically, Lebanon's mtDNA shows a very strong association to Europe, while Yemen shows very strong affinity with Egypt and North and East Africa. Previous Y-chromosome results showed a Levantine coastal-inland contrast marked by J1 and J2, and a very strong North African component was evident throughout the Middle East. Neither of these patterns were observed in the mtDNA. While J2 has penetrated into Europe, the pattern of Y-chromosome diversity in Lebanon does not show the widespread affinities with Europe indicated by the mtDNA data. Lastly, while each population shows evidence of connections with expansions that now define the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, many of the populations in the Middle East show distinctive mtDNA and Y-haplogroup characteristics that indicate long standing settlement with relatively little impact from and movement into other populations.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere54616
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2013