High Levels of Y-Chromosome Differentiation among Native Siberian Populations and the Genetic Signature of a Boreal Hunter-Gatherer Way of Life

We examined genetic variation on the nonrecombining portion of the Y chromosome (NRY) to investigate the paternal population structure of indigenous Siberian groups and to reconstruct the historical events leading to the peopling of Siberia. A set of 62 biallelic markers on the NRY were genotyped in 1432 males representing 18 Siberian populations, as well as nine populations from Central and East Asia and one from European Russia. A subset of these markers defines the 18 major NRY haplogroups (A-R) recently described by the Y Chromosome Consortium (YCC 2002). While only four of these 18 major NRY haplogroups accounted for ~ 95% of Siberian Y-chromosome variation, native Siberian populations differed greatly in their haplogroup composition and exhibited the highest F ST value for any region of the world. When we divided our Siberian sample into four geographic regions versus five major linguistic groupings, analyses of molecular variance (AMOVA) indicated higher F ST and F CT values for linguistic groups than for geographic groups. Mantel tests also supported the existence of NRY genetic patterns that were correlated with language, indicating that language affiliation might be a better predictor of the genetic affinity among Siberians than their present geographic position. The combined results, including those from a nested cladistic analysis, underscored the important role of directed dispersals, range expansions, and long-distance colonizations bound by common ethnic and linguistic affiliation in shaping the genetic landscape of Siberia. The Siberian pattern of reduced haplogroup diversity within populations combined with high levels of differentiation among populations may be a general feature characteristic of indigenous groups that have small effective population sizes and that have been isolated for long periods of time.