Harvesting the fruit of the human mtDNA tree

Antonio Torroni, Alessandro Achilli, Vincent Macaulay, Martin Richards, Hans Jürgen Bandelt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

356 Citations (Scopus)


Human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) studies have entered a new phase since the blossoming of complete genome analyses. Sequencing complete mtDNAs is more expensive and more labour intensive than restriction analysis or simply sequencing the control region of the molecule. But the efforts are paying off, as the phylogenetic resolution of the mtDNA tree has been greatly improved, and, in turn, phylogeographic interpretations can be given correspondingly greater precision in terms of the timing and direction of human dispersals. Therefore, despite mtDNA being only a fraction of our total genome, the deciphering of its evolution is profoundly changing our perception about how modern humans spread across our planet. Here we illustrate the phylogeographic approach with two case studies: the initial dispersal out of Africa, and the colonization of Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-345
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Genetics
Issue number6
Early online date4 May 2006
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


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