Monday, September 14, 2009

Are Uyghurs a recent or ancient population?

They are basically seeing whether there are many private haplotypes in the Uyghur population compared to East Asian and European populations. They don't find this to be the case, thus suggesting that Uyghurs are the result of a recent admixture process.

Haplotype-Sharing Analysis Showing Uyghurs Are Unlikely Genetic Donors
Shuhua Xu, Wenfei Jin and Li Jin
Molecular Biology and Evolution 2009 26(10):2197-2206
Abstract: The Uyghur (UIG) are a group of people primarily residing in Xinjiang of China, which is geographically located in Central Asia, from where modern humans were presumably spread in all directions reaching Europe, east, and northeast Asia about 40 kya. A recent study suggested that the UIG are ancestry donors of the East Asian (EAS) gene pool. However, an alternative hypothesis, that is, the UIG is an admixture population with both EAS and EUR ancestries is also supported by our previous studies. To test the two competing hypotheses, here we conducted a haplotype-sharing analysis (HSA) based on empirical and simulated data of high-density single nucleotide polymorphisms. Our results showed that more than 95% of UIG haplotypes could be found in either EAS or EUR populations, which contradicts the expectation of the null models assuming that UIG are donors. Simulation studies further indicated that the proportion of UIG private haplotypes observed in empirical data is only expected in alternative models assuming that UIG is an admixture population. Interestingly, the estimated ancestry contribution of 44%:56% (EAS:EUR) based on HSA is consistent with our previous estimation with STRUCTURE analysis. Although the history of UIGs could be complex, our method is explicit and conservative in rejecting the null hypothesis. We concluded that the gene pool of modern UIGs is more likely a sole recipient with contribution from both EAS and EUR.


Maju said...

Wonder who dared to claim that Uyghurs are older than West or East Eurasians. I thought it was a well estabilished fact that the country was only settled in, probably, the Chalcolithic age, being such an arid region.

Anonymous said...

Chinese scientists doing genetic research on the troublesome Uyghur population could have a vested interest in the results. It is politically convenient that their results show the Uyghurs to be an "recent admixture" rather than a more established genetic group that would presumably have more of a claim on their land. The government of PRC will not be unhappy with this, so I would look for an independent study to confirm these results.

Maju said...

Hmmm... For all we know, the modern Uyghuristan was only settled in the Chalcolithic period by West Eurasian peoples, probably Indoeuropeans of the Afanasevo culture (who are thought to be ancestors of historical Tocharians). Then, in the late Iron Age, Turkic peoples original from what is now Mongolia took over: the composite Turkic-speaking population are the Uyghurs.

Genetic research has for long produced results that show that dual origin of this ethnicity. Whatever the political conflicts, this is by now a quite uncontroversial understanding by scientists from all corners of the World, including Uyghurs themselves.

I don't see why this would have to benefit the Chinese political position anyhow, as none of the two ancestry components of Uyghurs is Han nor otherwise Chinese.

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