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Patterns of Genetic Diversity at the Nine Forensically Approved STR Loci in the Indian Populations

Genetic diversity at the nine short tandem repeat (STR) loci, which are universally approved and widely used for forensic investigations, has been studied among nine Indian populations with diverse ethnic, linguistic, and geographic backgrounds. The nine STR loci were profiled on 902 individuals using fluorescent detection methods on an ABI377 System, with the aid of an Amp-Fl Profiler Plus Kit. The studied populations include two upper castes, Brahmin and Kayastha; a tribe, Garo, from West Bengal; a Hindu caste, Meitei, with historical links to Bengal Brahmins; a migrant group of Muslims; three tribal groups, Naga, Kuki and Hmar, from Manipur in northeast India; and a middle-ranking caste, Golla, who are seminomadic herders from Andhra Pradesh. Gene diversity analysis suggests that the average heterozygosity is uniformly high (x0.8) in the studied populations, with the coefficient of gene differentiation at 0.050 ± 0.0054. Both neighbor-joining (NJ) and unweighted pair group method with arithmetic mean (UPGMA) trees based on distances bring out distinct clusters that are consistent with ethnic, linguistic, and/or geographic backgrounds of the populations. The fit of the Harpending and Ward model of regression of average heterozygosity on the gene frequency centroid is found to be good, and the observed outliers are consistent with the population structure and history of the studied populations. Our study suggests that the nine STR loci, used so far mostly for forensic investigations, can be used fruitfully for microevolutionary studies as well, and for reconstructing the phylogenetic history of human populations, at least at the local level.