Mitochondrial DNA Studies Show Asymmetrical Amerindian Admixture in Afro-Colombian and Mestizo Populations

AbstractThe origin of the African populations that arrived on the Colombian coasts at the time of the Spanish conquest and their subsequent settlement throughout the country and interaction with Amerindian and Spanish populations are features that can be analyzed through the study of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers. For this purpose, the present study investigates the admixture between these populations by analyzing the markers defining the main (A, B, C, D) and minor (X) founder haplogroups in Native Americans, the principal African haplogroup (L), and additional generic markers present in Caucasian (I, J, K, H, T, U, V, W) and minor African lineages (L3). As part of an interdisciplinary research program (the Expedición Humana, furthered by the Universidad Javeriana and directed by J.E. Bernal V.), 159 Afro-Colombians from five populations in which they are the majority and 91 urban Mestizos were studied. No Amerindian haplogroups (A-D, X) were detected in 81% of the Afro-Colombians. In those samples with Amerindian lineages (average 18.8%, with a range from 10% to 43%), haplogroup B predominated. When analyzed for the presence of African haplotypes, Afro-Colombians showed an overall frequency of 35.8% for haplogroup L mtDNAs, although with broad differences between populations. A few Afro-Colombian samples (1.9%) had mutations that have not been described before, and might therefore be considered as previously unsampled African variants or as new mutations arising in the American continent. Conversely, in Mestizos less than 22% of their mtDNAs belonged to non-Amerindian lineages, of which most were likely to be West Eurasian in origin. Haplogroup L mtDNAs were found in only one Mestizo (1.1%), indicating that, if present, admixture with African women would bring in other, rarer African lineages. On the other hand, in an accompanying paper (Keyeux et al. 2002) we have shown that Amerindians from Colombia have experienced little or no matrilineal admixture with Caucasians or Africans. Taken together, these results are evidence of different patterns of past ethnic admixture among Africans, Amerindians, and Spaniards in the geographic region now encompassing Colombia, which is also reflected in much of the region's cultural diversity.