Peopling of the North Circumpolar Region – Insights from Y Chromosome STR and SNP Typing of Greenlanders

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The human population in Greenland is characterized by migration events of Paleo- and Neo-Eskimos, as well as admixture with Europeans. In this study, the Y-chromosomal variation in male Greenlanders was investigated in detail by typing 73 Y-chromosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (Y-SNPs) and 17 Y-chromosomal short tandem repeats (Y-STRs). Approximately 40% of the analyzed Greenlandic Y chromosomes were of European origin (I-M170, R1a-M513 and R1b-M343). Y chromosomes of European origin were mainly found in individuals from the west and south coasts of Greenland, which is in agreement with the historic records of the geographic placements of European settlements in Greenland. Two Inuit Y-chromosomal lineages, Q-M3 (xM19, M194, L663, SA01 and L766) and Q-NWT01 (xM265) were found in 23% and 31% of the male Greenlanders, respectively. The time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of the Q-M3 lineage of the Greenlanders was estimated to be between 4,400 and 10,900 years ago (y. a.) using two different methods. This is in agreement with the theory that the North Circumpolar Region was populated via a second expansion of humans in the North American continent. The TMRCA of the Q-NWT01 (xM265) lineage in Greenland was estimated to be between 7,000 and 14,300 y. a. using two different methods, which is older than the previously reported TMRCA of this lineage in other Inuit populations. Our results indicate that Inuit individuals carrying the Q-NWT01 (xM265) lineage may have their origin in the northeastern parts of North America and could be descendants of the Dorset culture. This in turn points to the possibility that the current Inuit population in Greenland is comprised of individuals of both Thule and Dorset descent.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0116573
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2015

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