Gene Expression

Dienekes posted some abstracts of the ASHG 2009 meeting. This one is in the category of facts we assumed but weren’t totally sure of:

Abraham’s children in the genome era: Major Jewish Diaspora populations comprise distinct genetic clusters with shared Middle Eastern ancestry

Here, we present population structure results from compiled datasets after merging with the Human Genome Diversity Project and the Population Reference Sample studies, which consisted of 146 non-Jewish Middle Easterners (Druze, Bedouin and Palestinian), 30 northern Africans (Mozabite from Algeria), 1547 Europeans, and 653 individuals from other African, Asian, Latin American, and Oceanian populations. Both principal component analyses and multi-dimensional scaling analysis of pairwise Fst distance show that Jewish populations form a cluster clearly distinct from all major continental populations. The results also reveal a finer population substructure in which each of 7 Jewish populations studied here form distinctive clusters - in each instance within group Fst was smaller than between group, although some groups (Iranian, Iraqi) demonstrated greater within group diversity and even sub-clusters, based on village of origin. By pairwise Fst analysis, the Jewish groups are closest to Southern Europeans (i.e. Tuscan Italians) and to Druze, Bedouins, Palestinians. Interestingly, the distance to the closest Southern European population follows the order from proximal to distal: Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Syrian, Iraqi, and Iranian, which reflects historical admixture with local communities. STRUCTURE results show that the Jewish Diaspora groups all demonstrated Middle Eastern ancestry, but varied significantly in the extent of European admixture. There is almost no European ancestry in Iranian and Iraqi Jews, whereas Syrian, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi Jews have European admixture ranging from 30%~60%. Analysis of identity-by-descent provides further insight on recent and distinct history of such populations. These results demonstrate the shared and distinctive genetic heritage of Jewish Diaspora groups.

Remember that Fst is measuring variation, so more between group variation naturally indicates population substructure. The distinctiveness of Ashkenazi Jews is probably what I might term the “Iceland Effect”, no matter your original genetic profile shutting off gene flow for centuries will naturally result in a random walk into unique territory which can’t be explained simply as a combination of the founding population (in the case of Ashkenazi Jews I assume it was Middle Easterners and Europeans).

Related: How Ashkenazi Jewish Are You?

Comments

  1. #1 Billare
    September 4, 2009

    Hahahaha. The WNs are going to love this one.

  2. #2 Russell
    September 4, 2009

    Does anyone remember the paper that was published a few years back, showing how closely related the Palestinians were to the native Jewish population, that was yanked after publication because of the political furor it caused?

  3. #3 megan
    September 4, 2009

    It is nearly certain the Pashtuns and even the Kurds are of migrating Jewish descent/related and that millions of Jews from the diaspora were forced or willingly convert to Islam as it swept through the Middle and Southwest Asian regions.
    There are descendants of merchant Jewish groups in Kashmir.

  4. #4 razib
    September 4, 2009

    It is nearly certain the Pashtuns and even the Kurds are of migrating Jewish descent/related and that millions of Jews from the diaspora were forced or willingly convert to Islam as it swept through the Middle and Southwest Asian regions.
    There are descendants of merchant Jewish groups in Kashmir.

    all obviously false.

  5. #5 Curious Observer
    September 4, 2009

    There is almost no European ancestry in Iranian and Iraqi Jews, whereas Syrian, Sephardic, and Ashkenazi Jews have European admixture ranging from 30%~60%.

    Dienekes is of the opinion that the European DNA in Ashkenazi and Sephardim originites from Greek/Anatolian converts to Judaism and women of said ethnic groups who were taken as brides during the Hellenic Age when Judaism was proslytist (hence Jews cluster between Greeks and Armenians). The Greco-Anatolian conversion would explain most of the 60% of Ashekenazi European DNA.

    But my question is which Middle Eastern ethnic group were the original Jews (ie, the remaining ~40% of Ashkenazi DNA) closest to?

    Is the remaining 40% most similar to Kurds, Armenians, Syrians, Lebanese?

    Anyone want to take a stab at it?

  6. #6 razib
    September 4, 2009

    But my question is which Middle Eastern ethnic group were the original Jews (ie, the remaining ~40% of Ashkenazi DNA) closest to?

    why wouldn’t you think jews are closest to levantine people originally? they were levantine by reputation. i assume persian jews have admixed some with mesopatamian and iranian peoples, just as the yemeni jews resemble yemenis to some extent.

  7. #7 Curious Observer
    September 5, 2009

    why wouldn’t you think jews are closest to levantine people originally?

    They certainly could be. My uncertainty comes from the fact that I’ve always thought Ashkenazi and non-European Jews such as the Persian Jews don’t really resemble Lebanese and Syrians, but perhaps the Ashkenazi appear non-Levantine due to Greek/Anatolian admixture.

    Just my observation.

  8. #8 razib
    September 5, 2009

    My uncertainty comes from the fact that I’ve always thought Ashkenazi and non-European Jews such as the Persian Jews don’t really resemble Lebanese and Syrians, but perhaps the Ashkenazi appear non-Levantine due to Greek/Anatolian admixture.

    i don’t know. i have arab friends who are confused for jewish regulary of levantine origin. but in any case, as you said, ashkenazi jews have a lot of non-mid eastern admixture. additionally, they’ve been a distinct population for ~1000 years at least. finally, re: persian jews, my understanding is that they’re a branch of the old iraq jewish community, both derived from the sassanid era jewish community extremely numerous in southern mesopotamia. mesopatamia was a semitic domain throughout the sassanid period (and before), with large arab populations already by the time of the islamic conquest, so the admixture to iranian jews might not be ethnic persian.

  9. #9 gcochran
    September 5, 2009

    I’d guess that the European admixture among the Ashkenazi Jews is more Italian than anything else: but we’ll see soon.

    For Syrian Jews, Greek?

  10. #10 toto
    September 5, 2009

    I’m not sure I’m getting it right: does it say that Syrian Jews are more Europeanised than Non-Jewish Syrians, or just more than Mesopotamian Jews?

  11. #11 anondoc
    September 7, 2009

    toto,
    I think the abstract only compares European admixture among the Jewish populations.

  12. #12 ElamBend
    September 7, 2009

    I would be curious to see if there is a high Jewish genetic profile among Greeks. Historical evidence seems to indicate that when Christianity spread out of the Levant it was mostly to Hellenized Jews and then to Greeks who joined them. Since these Jews were effectively cut off from their ethnic brothers, I would suspect that they passed into the Greek whole.

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