Rapidly mutating Y-STRs in rapidly expanding populations: Discrimination power of the Yfiler Plus multiplex in northern Africa



D’Atanasio E, Iacovacci G, Pistillo R, Bonito M, Dugoujon JM, Moral P, El-Chennawi F, Melhaoui M, Baali A, Cherkaoui M, Sellitto D, Trombetta B, Berti A, Cruciani F.


Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2019 Jan;38:185-194. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2018.11.002. Epub 2018 Nov 2.


The male-specific northern African genetic pool is characterised by a high frequency of the E-M81 haplogroup, which expanded in very recent times (2-3 kiloyears ago). As a consequence of their recent coalescence, E-M81 chromosomes often cannot be completely distinguished on the basis of their Y-STR profiles, unless rapidly-mutating Y-STRs (RM Y-STRs) are analysed. In this study, we used the Yfiler® Plus kit, which includes 7 RM Y-STRs and 20 standard Y-STR, to analyse 477 unrelated males coming from 11 northern African populations sampled from Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Egypt. The Y chromosomes were assigned to monophyletic lineages after the analysis of 72 stable biallelic polymorphisms and, as expected, we found a high proportion of E-M81 subjects (about 46%), with frequencies decreasing from west to east. We found low intra-population diversity indexes, in particular in the populations that experienced long-term isolation. The AMOVA analysis showed significant differences between the countries and between most of the 11 populations, with a rough differentiation between northwestern Africa and northeastern Africa, where the Egyptians Berbers from Siwa represented an outlier population. The comparison between the Yfiler® and the Yfiler® Plus network of the E-M81 Y chromosomes confirmed the high power of discrimination of the latter kit, thanks to higher variability of the RM Y-STRs: indeed, the number of chromosomes sharing the same haplotype was drastically reduced from 201 to 81 and limited, in the latter case, to subjects from the same population. CI – Copyright © 2018. Published by Elsevier B.V.

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Link/DOI: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2018.11.002