Mitochondrial, Y-chromosomal and autosomal variation in Mbenzele Pygmies from the Central African Republic
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In this paper, we carry out a combined analysis of autosomal (ten microsatellites and an Alu insertion), mitochondrial (HVR-1 sequence, 360 nucleotides) and Y-chromosomal (seven microsatellites) variation in the Mbenzele Pygmies from the Central African Republic. This study focuses on two important questions concerning the admixture and origin of African Pygmies. Ethnographic observations suggest a sex-biased gene flow between the Bantus and Pygmies, an issue which could be clarified through genetic analyses may shed light. A study of intrapopulational variation of mtDNA and Y-chromosome produces results in accordance with the hypothesized matrimonial behaviour. In fact, while shared mitochondrial haplotypes belonging to the L1c5 (or L1c1a1 clade) sub-haplogroup provides evidence of a Pygmy-to-Bantu female biased gene flow, a male biased gene flow from Bantu to Pygmies is supported by the distribution of the Y-chromosomes bearing M2 mutation. The second part of our study regards the question of the genetic relationships between Western and Eastern Pygmies. Our results favour the pre-Bantu hypothesis which suggests that the two Pygmy groups separated in ancient times (at least 18,000 years ago), whereas they do not support the recent divergence and differential admixture hypothesis which posits their separation as a consequence of the Bantu expansion (2,000-3,000 years ago).