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The Indian origin of paternal haplogroup R1a1* substantiates the autochthonous origin of Brahmins and the caste system

National Centre of Applied Human Genetics, School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
Journal of Human Genetics (Impact Factor: 2.53). 02/2009; 54(1):47-55. DOI: 10.1038/jhg.2008.2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Many major rival models of the origin of the Hindu caste system co-exist despite extensive studies, each with associated genetic evidences. One of the major factors that has still kept the origin of the Indian caste system obscure is the unresolved question of the origin of Y-haplogroup R1a1*, at times associated with a male-mediated major genetic influx from Central Asia or Eurasia, which has contributed to the higher castes in India. Y-haplogroup R1a1* has a widespread distribution and high frequency across Eurasia, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, with scanty reports of its ancestral (R*, R1* and R1a*) and derived lineages (R1a1a, R1a1b and R1a1c). To resolve these issues, we screened 621 Y-chromosomes (of Brahmins occupying the upper-most caste position and schedule castes/tribals occupying the lower-most positions) with 55 Y-chromosomal binary markers and seven Y-microsatellite markers and compiled an extensive dataset of 2809 Y-chromosomes (681 Brahmins, and 2128 tribals and schedule castes) for conclusions. A peculiar observation of the highest frequency (up to 72.22%) of Y-haplogroup R1a1* in Brahmins hinted at its presence as a founder lineage for this caste group. Further, observation of R1a1* in different tribal population groups, existence of Y-haplogroup R1a* in ancestors and extended phylogenetic analyses of the pooled dataset of 530 Indians, 224 Pakistanis and 276 Central Asians and Eurasians bearing the R1a1* haplogroup supported the autochthonous origin of R1a1 lineage in India and a tribal link to Indian Brahmins. However, it is important to discover novel Y-chromosomal binary marker(s) for a higher resolution of R1a1* and confirm the present conclusions.

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    • "For example, the probable source area of mtDNA Hg R8 in South Asia was estimated using rank correlation analysis between Hg frequency and geographic distance (Thangaraj et al. 2009). Using rank correlation analysis of the Hg frequency and longitude/latitude values of Y-haplogroup R1a1 in different areas in India, the autochthonous origin of the caste system was supported (Sharma et al. 2009). Correlation of gene importance and evolution rate was analysed also using rank correlation method (Wang and Zhang 2009). "
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    • "However, the coalescent age of 10.3 KYA for R1a1- Z93 chromosomes in this study is lower than that of populations of the Indus Valley (14 KYA) for the STR associated diversity of R1a1a*(xM458) chromosomes calculated by Underhill et al. (2010). Previous publications have pointed out that regions of highest haplogroup frequencies do not always indicate the territory of origin (Cinnioglu et al., 2004) and high STR diversity may not be exclusively an indicator of in-situ diversification but could also be the consequence of repeated gene flow from different sources (Zerjal et al., 2002; Sharma et al., 2009). It is an open question as to whether the Andronovo and Tarim Basin R1a1-M198 peoples (Keyser et al., 2009; Li et al., 2010) belonged to the R1a1-Z280 group, the R1a1-Z93 group, or both. "
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