Y-Chromosome Analysis in Egypt Suggests a Genetic Regional Continuity in Northeastern Africa

AbstractThe geographic location of Egypt, at the interface between North Africa, the Middle East, and southern Europe, prompted us to investigate the genetic diversity of this population and its relationship with neighboring populations. To assess the extent to which the modern Egyptian population reflects this intermediate geographic position, ten Unique Event Polymorphisms (UEPs), mapping to the nonrecombining portion of the Y chromosome, have been typed in 164 Y chromosomes from three North African populations. The analysis of these binary markers, which define 11 Y-chromosome lineages, were used to determine the haplogroup frequencies in Egyptians, Moroccan Arabs, and Moroccan Berbers and thereby define the Y-chromosome background in these regions. Pairwise comparisons with a set of 15 different populations from neighboring European, North African, and Middle Eastern populations and geographic analysis showed the absence of any significant genetic barrier in the eastern part of the Mediterranean area, suggesting that genetic variation and gene flow in this area follow the "isolation-by-distance" model. These results are in sharp contrast with the observation of a strong north-south genetic barrier in the western Mediterranean basin, defined by the Gibraltar Strait. Thus, the Y-chromosome gene pool in the modern Egyptian population reflects a mixture of European, Middle Eastern, and African characteristics, highlighting the importance of ancient and recent migration waves, followed by gene flow, in the region.