Background: Available mitochondrial (mtDNA) data demonstrate genetic differentiation among South Slavs inhabiting the Balkan Peninsula. However, their resolution is insufficient to elucidate the female-specific aspects of the genetic history of South Slavs, including the genetic impact of various migrations which were rather common within the Balkans, a region having a turbulent demographic history.
Aim: Therefore, we thoroughly studied complete mitogenomes of Serbians, a population linking westward and eastward South Slavs.
Subjects and methods: Forty-six predominantly Serbian super-haplogroup U complete mitogenomes were analysed phylogenetically against ∼4000 available complete mtDNAs of modern and ancient Western Eurasians.
Results: Serbians share a number of U mtDNA lineages with Southern, Eastern-Central and North-Western Europeans. Putative Balkan-specific lineages (e.g. U1a1c2, U4c1b1, U5b3j, K1a4l and K1a13a1) and lineages shared among Serbians (South Slavs) and West and East Slavs were detected (e.g. U2e1b1, U2e2a1d, U4a2a, U4a2c, U4a2g1, U4d2b and U5b1a1).
Conclusion: The exceptional diversity of maternal lineages found in Serbians may be associated with the genetic impact of both autochthonous pre-Slavic Balkan populations whose mtDNA gene pool was affected by migrations of various populations over time (e.g. Bronze Age pastoralists) and Slavic and Germanic newcomers in the early Middle Ages.