Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations
share a common pool of Y-chromosome
M. F. Hammer*†‡, A. J. Redd*†, E. T. Wood*†, M. R. Bonner*, H. Jarjanazi*, T. Karafet*, S. Santachiara-Benerecetti¶,
A. Oppenheim?, M. A. Jobling**, T. Jenkins††, H. Ostrer‡‡, and B. Bonne ´-Tamir§
*Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolution, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721;¶Department of Genetics, Universita ` degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia
27100, Italy;?Hadassah Medical School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91120, Israel; **Department of Genetics, University of Leicester, Leicester
LE1 7RH, England;††SAMIR, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa;‡‡Department of Pediatrics, New York University Medical Center,
New York, NY 10016; and§Department of Human Genetics, Sackler School of Medicine, Ramat Aviv 69978, Israel
Communicated by Arno G. Motulsky, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, March 15, 2000 (received for review November 17, 1999)
trace the paternal origins of the Jewish Diaspora. A set of 18
biallelic polymorphisms was genotyped in 1,371 males from 29
populations, including 7 Jewish (Ashkenazi, Roman, North African,
groups from similar geographic locations. The Jewish populations
were characterized by a diverse set of 13 haplotypes that were also
present in non-Jewish populations from Africa, Asia, and Europe.
A series of analyses was performed to address whether modern
Jewish Y-chromosome diversity derives mainly from a common
Middle Eastern source population or from admixture with neigh-
boring non-Jewish populations during and after the Diaspora.
Despite their long-term residence in different countries and isola-
tion from one another, most Jewish populations were not signif-
icantly different from one another at the genetic level. Admixture
estimates suggested low levels of European Y-chromosome gene
flow into Ashkenazi and Roman Jewish communities. A multidi-
mensional scaling plot placed six of the seven Jewish populations
in a relatively tight cluster that was interspersed with Middle
Eastern non-Jewish populations, including Palestinians and Syri-
ans. Pairwise differentiation tests further indicated that these
Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations were not
statistically different. The results support the hypothesis that the
paternal gene pools of Jewish communities from Europe, North
Africa, and the Middle East descended from a common Middle
Eastern ancestral population, and suggest that most Jewish com-
munities have remained relatively isolated from neighboring non-
Jewish communities during and after the Diaspora.
Babylonian exile in 586 B.C. marked the beginning of major
dispersals of Jewish populations from the Middle East and the
development of various Jewish communities outside of present-day
Israel (1). Today, Jews belong to several communities that can be
classified according to the location where each community devel-
oped. Among others, these include the Middle Eastern communi-
ties of former Babylonia and Palestine, the Jewish communities of
North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin, and Ashkenazi com-
munities of central and eastern Europe. The history of the Jewish
Diaspora—the numerous migrations of Jewish populations and
their subsequent residence in various countries in Europe, North
Africa, and West Asia—has resulted in a complex set of genetic
relationships among Jewish populations and their non-Jewish
neighbors. Several studies have attempted to describe these genetic
have come into play during the Diaspora (2–11). Some of the key
arguments in the literature concern the relative contributions of
common ancestry, genetic drift, natural selection, and admixture
leading to the observed similarities and differences among Jewish
and non-Jewish communities.
ewish religion and culture can be traced back to Semitic tribes
that lived in the Middle East approximately 4,000 years ago. The
Given the complex history of migration, can Jews be traced to a
single Middle Eastern ancestry, or are present-day Jewish commu-
geographic area? Some genetic studies suggest that Jewish popu-
lations show substantial non-Jewish admixture and the occurrence
other research points to considerably greater genetic similarity
among Jewish communities with only slight gene flow from their
respective host populations (5, 7, 9, 11, 13). Furthermore, it has
been demonstrated that the degree of genetic similarity among
Jewish communities and between Jewish and non-Jewish popula-
tions depends on the particular locus that is being investigated (4,
8, 11). This observation raises the possibility that variation associ-
ated with a given locus has been influenced by natural selection.
All of the aforementioned investigations used ‘‘classical’’
genetic markers such as blood groups, enzymes, and serum
proteins, as well as immunoglobulins and the HLA system. More
recently, restriction fragment length polymorphism studies were
initiated by using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the nonrecom-
bining portion of the Y chromosome (NRY), and other nuclear
loci (14–20). An advantage of nucleotide-level studies is that
they circumvent some of the complications associated with
selection; however, these studies have not fully resolved many of
the key issues in the earlier literature.
Analyses of mtDNA and the NRY are especially relevant to
studies of Jewish origins because, according to ancient Jewish
law, Jewish religious affiliation is assigned maternally (1). In
particular, studies of paternally inherited variation provide the
opportunity to assess the genetic contribution of non-Jewish
males to present-day Jewish genetic diversity. This research
represents one of the first comparisons of biallelic variation on
the NRY in Jewish and non-Jewish populations from similar
geographic areas. We surveyed 18 biallelic polymorphisms in 7
Jewish and 22 non-Jewish populations from Europe, the Middle
East, and Africa to assess the relative contributions of common
variation in populations of the Jewish Diaspora.
Abbreviations: mtDNA, mitochondrial DNA; NRY, nonrecombining portion of the Y chro-
mosome; MDS, multidimensional scaling; AMOVA, analyses of molecular variance.
database (accession nos. AF257063 and AF257064).
†M.F.H., A.J.R., and E.T.W. contributed equally to this work.
‡To whom reprint requests should be addressed at: Laboratory of Molecular Systematics
and Evolution, Biosciences West Room 239, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721.
The publication costs of this article were defrayed in part by page charge payment. This
article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C.
§1734 solely to indicate this fact.
Article published online before print: Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073?pnas.100115997.
Article and publication date are at www.pnas.org?cgi?doi?10.1073?pnas.100115997
June 6, 2000 ?
vol. 97 ?
no. 12 ?
Subjects and Methods
DNA Samples. We analyzed a total of 1,371 males from 29 popula-
tions. These populations were categorized into five major divisions
based on a combination of geographic, religious, linguistic, and
ethnohistorical criteria: Jews, Middle Eastern non-Jews, Europe-
ans, North Africans, and sub-Saharan Africans (Table 1). The
Jewish samples included 115 Ashkenazim (Ash), 44 Roman Jews
(Rom) (21), 45 North African Jews (Naf) (25 Moroccans, 15
Libyans, 1 Tunisian, 1 Algerian, and 3 from unspecified North
African countries), 32 Near Eastern Jews (Nea) (18 Iraqis and 14
Iranians), 50 Kurdish Jews (Kur) (22), 30 Yemenite Jews (Yem)
(23), and 20 Ethiopian Jews (EtJ) (23). The non-Jewish Middle
Eastern samples included 73 Palestinians (Pal), 91 Syrians (Syr), 23
Lebanese (Leb), 21 Israeli Druze (Dru), and 21 Saudi Arabians
(Sar). The remaining sample composition was as follows: Europe-
ans: 31 Russians (Rus), 44 British (Bri), 33 Germans (Ger), 40
Austrians (Aus), 81 Italians (Ita), 23 Spanish (Spa), 85 Greeks
(Gre); North Africans: 31 Tunisians (Tun), 58 Egyptians (Egy), 48
Ethiopians (Eth); sub-Saharan Africans: 49 Gambians (Gam), 31
Biaka (Bia), 26 Bagandans (Bag), 63 San (San), and 30 Zulu (Zul).
We also analyzed a sample of 98 Turks (Tur) and 34 unrelated
males from the Lemba (Lem), a Bantu (Venda)-speaking popula-
tion from southern Africa who claim Jewish paternal ancestry (24).
All sampling protocols were approved by the Human Subjects
Committee at the University of Arizona.
Mutation Detection. Mutation detection analysis was performed
by using single-stranded conformation polymorphism (SSCP)
(25) and denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography
(DHPLC) (26). The DYS211 (GenBank accession no. G11997)
and DYS221 (GenBank accession no. G12000) sequence-tagged
by Vollrath et al. (27). The Y-specific clones 4–1 (DYS188) and
accession nos. AF257063 and AF257064), and the sequence
information was used to design primers to amplify shorter
by standard procedures to identify mutations that caused altered
electrophoretic mobility on SSCP gels or altered DHPLC chro-
Allele-Specific Genotyping Assays. Variation at the DYS188792and
DYS194469polymorphic sites was genotyped by using allele-specific
PCR (29). Genotyping of the DYS221136 C3T transition and
DYS211105A3T transversion was performed by site-specific oli-
gonucleotide hybridization (30). The PCR conditions and primer
sequences used in these allele-specific genotyping assays were
deposited in the National Center for Biotechnology Information
dbSNP database (http:??www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov?SNP). The p12f2
polymorphism at DYS11 was genotyped by using the PCR assay
developed by M. Shlumukova, M. E. Hurles, and M.A.J. (unpub-
of Hammer and Horai (31). All other single-nucleotide polymor-
phisms and variation in the length of the polydeoxyadenylate tract
(polyA tail) at the 3? end of the YAP element were genotyped
according to methods reported by Hammer et al. (32) and Karafet
et al. (33).
Statistical Analyses. Genetic distances based on haplotype frequen-
ARLEQUIN (35) to test the hypothesis of a random distribution of
haplotypes among population groups and to perform analyses of
molecular variance (AMOVA). AMOVA produces estimates of
variance components and F-statistic analogs (?-statistics) reflect-
ing the correlation of haplotypic diversity at different levels of
was performed with maximum likelihood estimation by using the
program MULTISCALE (Ramsay, ftp:? ?ego.psych.mcgill.ca?pub?
ramsay?multiscl). Genetic distances among populations were re-
gressed on geographic distances for all pairs of populations. Be-
cause these data points were not independent, the significance of
each regression was assessed by a Mantel test (38). The mean and
NRY sequence as well as the ages of each of the mutations in our
cladogram were estimated by using the program GENETREE (39), as
described in Hammer et al. (32). Simulations were based on five
million replicate runs and ? values of 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, and 4.5, where ?
Table 1. Y-chromosome haplotype frequencies, %, in 29 populations
N4S1R Med1Ha 1U1C 1D1L Other
Only haplotypes common in Jewish populations are shown.
*See Subjects and Methods for list of populations in each group.
www.pnas.org Hammer et al.
is an estimate of the average number of polymorphic sites in the
length of NRY sequence screened for variation.
By using the computer program ADMIX1_0 (40), we estimated
admixture proportions (m) and their standard deviations based on
1,000 bootstrap runs. To infer the Y-chromosome-haplotype fre-
quencies of the Jewish parental population (P1), we averaged the
haplotype frequencies of North African, Near Eastern, Yemenite,
and Kurdish Jewish samples. To obtain the Y-chromosome-
haplotype frequencies of the parental European population (P2),
the haplotype frequencies from German, Austrian, and Russian
samples were averaged. To estimate P2 for the cases of the Roman
Jews and the Lemba, we used the frequencies of Y-chromosome-
haplotypes in our Italian sample, and a sample of 86 South African
East Bantu speakers (30), respectively. The approach of Shriver et
al. (41) was followed in selecting the haplotypes exhibiting the
highest frequency differential (?) between the two parental popu-
lations for use in the admixture analyses.
Haplotype Tree. During the course of this research, four Y-specific
polymorphisms were discovered: a C3T transition at position 792
of DYS188 (DYS188792C3T), a C3A transversion at position 469
of DYS194 (DYS194469C3A), a C3T transition at position 136 of
DYS221 (DYS221136C3T) and an A3T transversion at position
105 of DYS211 (DYS211105A3T). Comparisons with the homol-
ogous NRY sequences from great apes allowed us to infer the
ancestral states at these sites. The character states at all 18 poly-
morphic sites gave rise to 19 Y-chromosome haplotypes in world-
wide populations, 17 of which were present in the 1,371 Y-
chromosomes sampled in this survey. Fig. 1 shows the evolutionary
relationships among these 19 Y-chromosome haplotypes. We refer
to the most basal haplotype defined by the DYS188792 C3T
mutation as haplotype 1R. Three of the polymorphisms described
here mark lineages that are descended from haplotype 1R: the
p12f2 8-kb allele (Med haplotype), the DYS221136-T allele (haplo-
C3G transversion polymorphism (26). The DYS194469-T allele
defines a lineage (haplotype 1L) that is a member of the 1C clade,
itself defined by the DYS257182G3A transition (32). In previous
haplotype trees (32), YAP?haplotype 4 was differentiated from
with the PN2-T allele and the poly(A)-L allele provides evidence
that the PN2 C3T transition occurred before the poly(A) L3S
deletion. This haplotype, called YAP?haplotype 4L (Fig. 1), was
found only in seven Ethiopian males (Jewish and non-Jewish).
Coalescence Analysis. Fig. 1 also presents the mean age estimates
for the 18 mutational events in the Y-chromosome-haplotype
tree based on a ? value of 3.5. This value of ? produced results
that were in excellent agreement with runs based on ? values
between 3.0 and 4.5. In particular, the estimated ages of muta-
tions ?60,000 years old did not change appreciably as ? values
varied (data not shown). The estimated ages of the polymor-
phisms reported here were ?60,000 ? 23,000 years for the
DYS188792C3T transition; 22,600 ? 8,300 years the poly(A)
L3S deletion; 14,800 ? 9,700 years for the p12f2 8-kb deletion;
10,000 ? 5,100 years for the DYS194469C3A transversion; and
6,500 ? 7,900 years for the DYS221136C3T transition.
Geographic Distribution of Y-Chromosome Haplotypes. Of the 13
Y-chromosome haplotypes present in Jewish populations, 8 were
found at frequencies of ?5% (Table 1). Nearly all Jewish popula-
tions were characterized by relatively high frequencies of two
haplotypes (Med and YAP?4S). Ethiopian Jews were distin-
guished from other Jewish populations by the presence of moder-
ately high frequencies of haplotypes 1A and 4L (20% each), as well
as by the absence of haplotypes 1C, 1D, and 1L.
There was a remarkable similarity in Y-chromosome haplotype
composition and average frequency in Jewish and non-Jewish
Middle Eastern populations (Table 1). Many of the same haplo-
types present in Jewish and Middle Eastern populations were also
present in samples from Europe, although at varying frequencies.
lower frequencies, haplotype 1L was extremely common, especially
in northern Europe. Interestingly, the Med and YAP?4S haplo-
types accounted for ?76% of North African Y chromosomes. In
almost completely different set of haplotypes.
Genetic and Geographic Distances Among Populations. The ‘‘among
populations’’ variance component (?ST) for the Ashkenazi,
Roman, North African, Near Eastern, Kurdish, and Yemenite
in Table 2) indicated that these Jewish populations were not
significantly different from one another. A series of pairwise
differentiation tests in which 13 of 15 Jewish population pairs
were not statistically different confirmed this result (data not
shown). Furthermore, the mean Jewish interpopulation Chord
(42) distance value was lower than that for any other population
group (data not shown). It is of particular interest that the level
of divergence among Jewish populations was low despite their
Table 2. ?STdistances within (on diagonal) and between (below
diagonal) population groups
J MEAEURNAF SAF
Jews were included. J, Jews; MEA, Mid-East non-Jews; EUR, Europeans; NAF,
North Africans; SAF, sub-Saharan Africans.
‡Results of population differentiation tests between groups are shown above
the diagonal: ‘‘?,’’ not significantly different (P ? 0.03), and ‘‘?,’’ signifi-
cantly different (P ? 10?5).
Y chromosome is represented by a dot (single-nucleotide polymorphism) or a
y axis, and the haplotypes defined by these mutational events are shown on the
x axis. 1 ? SRY10831.1, 2 ? PN3, 3 ? RPS4Y711, 4 ? YAP, 5 ? SRY4064, 6 ? PN2, 7 ?
p(A)L3S, 8 ? PN1, 9 ? DYS188792, 10 ? p12f, 11 ? DYS221136, 12 ? DYS211105,
13 ? M9, 14 ? Tat, 15 ? DYS257, 16 ? DYS194469, 17 ? DYS199, 18 ? SRY10831.2?
Time-scaled gene tree for 19 biallelic Y-chromosome haplotypes. Each
Hammer et al.
June 6, 2000 ?
vol. 97 ?
no. 12 ?
high degree of geographic dispersion. The mean geographic
distance among these six Jewish populations was ?3,000 km.
This value was greater than the mean geographic distances of the
Middle Eastern (?600 km) and European (?1,700 km) groups
and was comparable to that for the North African group (?2,900
km). In fact, these Jewish populations had the lowest ratio of
genetic-to-geographic distance of all groups in this study.
We then tested for correlations between genetic and geo-
graphic distances. There was a linear relationship between the
Chord distance matrix and the geographic distance matrix of the
non-Jewish populations from Europe, West Asia, and North
Africa (r ? 0.620, P ? 0.0003). In contrast, the genetic and
geographic matrices of the six Jewish populations analyzed
above were not significantly correlated (r ? 0.081, P ? 0.394).
To test whether this difference was the result of lower power
caused by the smaller number of Jewish samples compared with
non-Jewish samples (n ? 16), we repeated the test by using six
matched non-Jewish populations (Germans, Russians, Tuni-
sians, Palestinians, Saudi Arabians, and Italians), which best
represented the geographical locations of our Jewish samples.
The correlation between the genetic and geographic distance
matrices was still significantly positive (r ? 0.469, P ? 0.047).
Genetic Affinities Among Populations. Fig. 2 shows the results of
multidimensional scaling based on Chord genetic distances. The
correlation between the original Chord distance matrix and a
Euclidean distance matrix derived from the two-dimensional
plot was very high (r ? 0.971). Sub-Saharan African, North
African, and European populations formed three distinct clus-
ters. The Ashkenazi, Roman, North African, Near Eastern,
Kurdish, and Yemenite Jewish populations formed a fairly
compact cluster between the North African and European
groups. This Jewish cluster was interspersed with the Palestinian
and Syrian populations, whereas the other Middle Eastern
non-Jewish populations (Saudi Arabians, Lebanese, and Druze)
closely surrounded it. Of the Jewish populations in this cluster,
the Ashkenazim were closest to South European populations
(specifically the Greeks) and also to the Turks. The Ethiopian
were located roughly halfway between the sub-Saharan African
and Jewish clusters.
The close genetic affinity of Jewish and Middle Eastern
non-Jewish populations was confirmed in population differen-
groups indicated that only 0.8% of the total genetic variance in
Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations was attrib-
utable to between-group differences. This was, by far, the lowest
?STvalue of any of the 10 comparisons in Table 2, and the only
value that was not statistically significant.
Population Structure. When AMOVA was performed on popula-
tions grouped according to a combination of geographical and
religious criteria (e.g., on Jews, Middle Eastern non-Jews, Euro-
differences within populations, and only 5.6% was partitioned
among populations within groups (Table 3, part A). A series of
analyses was carried out to identify the extent of among-group
variation in pairwise groupings (Table 3, part B). Pairwise com-
parisons with the North African group tended to produce the
highest between-group (?CT) values, indicating greater population
differentiation between North African and non-African popula-
tions. The among-group variance component was statistically sig-
nificant in all pairwise comparisons except one: only 0.3% (P ?
0.318) of the total variance was partitioned between Jewish and
Middle Eastern non-Jewish groups.
and Roman Jews with Europeans, North African Jews with North
Africans, and Near Eastern, Kurdish, and Yemenite Jews with
amount of variation partitioned among groups (Table 3, part C).
For example, ?CTvalues decreased by ?23% in the joint analysis
of the Middle Eastern, European, and North African groups (in
Table 3, compare part A1 with part C1 ); and in the pairwise
comparisons of Middle Eastern?European, Middle Eastern?North
African, and European?North African groups the ?CT values
decreased by 68% (Table 3, part B3 vs. part C2), 22% (part B5 vs.
part C3), and 43% (part B6 vs. part C4), respectively. These results
indicate that religious affiliation is a better predictor of the genetic
affinity among most Jewish populations in our survey than their
present-day geographic locations.
admixture estimates for the Ashkenazim, Roman Jews, and the
Lemba. Among the Ashkenazim, haplotypes Med and 1L were the
most diagnostic for distinguishing the parental Jewish (P1) and
frequencies of 18 Y-chromosome haplotypes in 29 populations. The three-
letter population codes are defined in Subjects and Methods. Solid triangles
represent Jewish populations, solid squares represent Middle Eastern popu-
lations, and open circles represent all other populations.
MDS plot of populations based on Y-chromosome haplotype data.
Table 3. Among-group components of variance
Population groupings* % Variance†
A. Four groups
B. Pairwise analysis
C. Geographic analysis
*Codes for population groups are the same as in Table 2, except in ‘‘Geo-
graphic analysis’’ (see text); †, ?CT? % variance/100; ??, P ? 0.01; ?, P ? 0.05;
ns, P ? 0.05. ns, no significant difference.
www.pnas.org Hammer et al.
parental European (P2) population components. All other haplo-
on haplotypes Med and 1L were ?13% ? 10%, suggesting a rather
small European contribution to the Ashkenazi paternal gene pool.
When all haplotypes were included in the analysis, m increased to
23% ? 7%. This value was similar to the estimated Italian contri-
bution to the Roman Jewish paternal gene pool. Our admixture
estimates for the Lemba were consistent with Spurdle and Jenkins’
(24) conclusion that ?40% of Lemba Y chromosomes are of
Jewish Y-Chromosome Haplotypes.Thepresentresearchwasaimed
at comparing the composition of Y-chromosome biallelic hap-
lotypes of Jewish communities with patterns of variation in
non-Jews from Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The Jewish
communities surveyed here contained a number of Y-
chromosome haplotypes that were shared with non-Jewish pop-
ulations from a wide geographic region. The Med haplotype, the
most frequent haplotype in Jewish communities, was also com-
mon in circum-Mediterranean populations. Its widespread dis-
Neolithic demic diffusion of farmers (43) and?or more recent
migrations of sea-going peoples such as the Phoenicians (44).
The second most frequent Jewish haplotype, YAP?haplotype
4, was common in Middle Eastern and southern European
populations and reached its highest frequency in North Africa.
The discovery of its precursor (YAP?haplotype 4L) in seven
Ethiopian males supports the hypothesis that the YAP?haplo-
type 4S originated on a YAP?4L chromosome in Ethiopia
(?20,000 years ago), where it likely increased in frequency
before spreading down the Nile River toward Egypt and the
Levant (32). This hypothesis is consistent with mtDNA evidence
indicating south-to-north gene flow down the Nile (45).
The presence of three haplotypes at very low frequencies (0.3–
1.5%) in Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations (1A,
the observed presence of low frequencies of African mtDNA
that are common in Asian populations (33) were present at low
frequencies in Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations
(Table 1). Continued surveys of West and Central Asian popula-
tions are needed to test the hypothesis of gene flow between Asian
and Middle Eastern populations.
Evidence for Common Jewish Origins. Several lines of evidence
support the hypothesis that Diaspora Jews from Europe, North-
west Africa, and the Near East resemble each other more closely
than they resemble their non-Jewish neighbors. First, six of the
seven Jewish populations analyzed here formed a relatively tight
cluster in the MDS analysis (Fig. 2). The only exception was the
Ethiopian Jews, who were affiliated more closely with non-
Jewish Ethiopians and other North Africans. Our results are
consistent with other studies of Ethiopian Jews based on a
variety of markers (16, 23, 46). However, as in other studies
where Ethiopian Jews exhibited markers that are characteristic
of both African and Middle Eastern populations, they had
Y-chromosome haplotypes (e.g., haplotypes Med and YAP?4S)
that were common in other Jewish populations.
Second, despite their high degree of geographic dispersion,
Jewish populations from Europe, North Africa, and the Near
East were less diverged genetically from each other than any
other group of populations in this study (Table 2). The statisti-
cally significant correlation between genetic and geographic
distances in our non-Jewish populations from Europe, the
Middle East, and North Africa is suggestive of spatial differen-
tiation, whereas the lack of such a correlation for Jewish
populations is more compatible with a model of recent dispersal
and subsequent isolation during and after the Diaspora.
To address the degree to which paternal gene flow may have
levels in our Jewish samples from Europe. This question remains
unresolved in particular for the Ashkenazi community. Our results
indicated a relatively minor contribution of European Y chromo-
somes to the Ashkenazim. If we assume 80 generations since the
founding of the Ashkenazi population, then the rate of admixture
would be ?0.5% per generation (47). Interestingly, our total
admixture estimate is very similar to Motulsky’s (8) average esti-
mate of 12.5% based on 18 classical genetic markers. However, the
18 markers in Motulsky’s (8) study fell into two classes: a low
and Carmelli (48) found significant heterogeneity of admixture
rates for different loci in the Ashkenazim. Because admixture
should affect all loci to the same degree, there are two possible
explanations for the heterogeneity: (i) admixture levels are actually
low, and some loci are affected by convergent selection (e.g., in a
common environment), or (ii) admixture levels are actually high,
and some loci are experiencing stabilizing selection. Motulsky (8)
the former model. Because the NRY has few functional genes and
our admixture results support the low admixture model.
Middle Eastern Affinities. A Middle Eastern origin of the Jewish
gene pool is generally assumed because of the detailed documen-
tation of Jewish history and religion. There are not many genetic
Diaspora Jews and non-Jewish Middle Eastern populations. A
number of earlier studies found evidence for Middle Eastern
affinities of Jewish genes (4, 5, 7, 51); however, results have
depended to a great extent on which loci were being compared,
possibly because of the confounding effects of selection (4). Al-
though the NRY tends to behave as a single genetic locus (52), the
DNA results presented here are less likely to be biased by selective
Table 4. Estimated admixture proportions (m) and parental haplotype frequency differences (?)
0.130 ? 0.0990.227 ? 0.078
‡ 0.289 ? 0.1830.204 ? 0.206
0.465 ? 0.1230.356 ? 0.098
Bantu speakers (30).
Hammer et al.
June 6, 2000 ?
vol. 97 ?
no. 12 ?
effects. The extremely close affinity of Jewish and non-Jewish
Middle Eastern populations observed here (Tables 2 and 3) sup-
ports the hypothesis of a common Middle Eastern origin. Of the
Middle Eastern populations included in this study, only the Syrian
populations (Fig. 2). Continued studies of variation in larger
samples, additional populations, and at other loci are needed to
confirm our inferences as well as to clarify the affinities of Jewish
and Middle Eastern Arab populations.
Evolutionary Processes. What do these results tell us about the
evolutionary factors that have shaped the structure of the Jewish
paternal gene pool? At the most basic level, the genetic distances
observed among Jewish and non-Jewish populations can be inter-
preted as reflecting common ancestry, genetic drift, and gene flow.
The latter two processes will tend to increase genetic distances
among Jewish populations, whereas admixture will also have the
effect of decreasing genetic distances between Jewish and non-
communities, with admixture playing a secondary role.
A somewhat surprising result is the small effect that genetic drift
appears to have had on genetic distances among Jewish popula-
tions. The effects of genetic drift are expected to be greater for
Jewish populations because of their reduced effective size during
dispersal and as isolated subpopulations in the Diaspora. For the
NRY, the effects of drift are expected to be even greater because
of its haploid mode of transmission and smaller effective size
not readily apparent, possibly because large numbers of males
participated in the numerous migrations of Jewish populations
from the Middle East and within various countries in Europe,
North Africa, and West Asia. If we accept this possibility, then the
higher relative degree of scatter observed among Jewish popula-
tions in discriminant analyses of classical genetic markers (4, 53)
may be explained by a combination of drift and selection. At least
two alternative hypotheses should be considered: (i) high rates of
recurrent Jewish male gene flow around the Mediterranean, Eu-
introducing non-Jewish variation into the Jewish gene pool (54).
Although some mtDNA studies suggest close affinities of Jewish
and Middle Eastern populations (14, 16), comprehensive compar-
isons of mtDNA variation in Jewish and neighboring non-Jewish
populations are not yet available. However, the existing mtDNA
data do suggest that contemporary Jewish populations are com-
posed of a diverse set of maternal lineages that diverged ?10,000
years ago (55). This is similar to our inference that most of the 13
Jewish Y-chromosome haplotypes in Fig. 1 predate the origin of
In summary, the combined results suggest that a major portion
of NRY biallelic diversity present in most of the contemporary
Jewish communities surveyed here traces to a common Middle
Eastern source population several thousand years ago. The
implication is that this source population included a large
number of distinct paternal and maternal lineages, reflecting
genetic variation established in the Middle East at that time. In
turn, this source diversity has been maintained within Jewish
communities, despite numerous migrations during the Diaspora
and long-term residence as isolated subpopulations in numerous
geographic locations outside of the Middle East.
We gratefully acknowledge the excellent technical assistance of Matthew
Kaplan, Agnish Chakravarti, Todd Tuggle, Arani Rasanayagam, Chris-
tine Ponder, and Jared Ragland. We also thank Laurie Ozelius, Laura
Zahn, Giuseppe Passarino, Ornella Semino, and the National Labora-
tory of Israeli Populations for samples, Robert Griffiths for help with the
coalescence analysis, and Stephen Zegura and Karl Skorecki for helpful
comments on the manuscript. This publication was made possible by
Grant GM-53566 from the National Institute of General Medical
Sciences (to M.F.H.). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the
Institutes of Health. M.A.J. is a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow
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