Ancient migratory events in the Middle East: New Clues from the Y-chromosome variation of modern Iranians

Viola Grugni, Vincenza Battaglia, Baharak Hooshiar Kashani, Silvia Parolo, Nadia Al-Zahery, Alessandro Achilli, Anna Olivieri, Francesca Gandini, Massoud Houshmand, Mohammad Hossein Sanati, Antonio Torroni, Ornella Semino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge of high resolution Y-chromosome haplogroup diversification within Iran provides important geographic context regarding the spread and compartmentalization of male lineages in the Middle East and southwestern Asia. At present, the Iranian population is characterized by an extraordinary mix of different ethnic groups speaking a variety of Indo-Iranian, Semitic and Turkic languages. Despite these features, only few studies have investigated the multiethnic components of the Iranian gene pool. In this survey 938 Iranian male DNAs belonging to 15 ethnic groups from 14 Iranian provinces were analyzed for 84 Y-chromosome biallelic markers and 10 STRs. The results show an autochthonous but non-homogeneous ancient background mainly composed by J2a sub-clades with different external contributions. The phylogeography of the main haplogroups allowed identifying post-glacial and Neolithic expansions toward western Eurasia but also recent movements towards the Iranian region from western Eurasia (R1b-L23), Central Asia (Q-M25), Asia Minor (J2a-M92) and southern Mesopotamia (J1-Page08). In spite of the presence of important geographic barriers (Zagros and Alborz mountain ranges, and the Dasht-e Kavir and Dash-e Lut deserts) which may have limited gene flow, AMOVA analysis revealed that language, in addition to geography, has played an important role in shaping the nowadays Iranian gene pool. Overall, this study provides a portrait of the Y-chromosomal variation in Iran, useful for depicting a more comprehensive history of the peoples of this area as well as for reconstructing ancient migration routes. In addition, our results evidence the important role of the Iranian plateau as source and recipient of gene flow between culturally and genetically distinct populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere41252
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


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