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Genetic Variation in Tunisia in the Context of Human Diversity Worldwide

NCJ Number
American Journal of Physical Anthropology Volume: 161 Issue: 1 Dated: 2016 Pages: 62-71
Date Published
10 pages
Although North Africa has a complex demographic history of migrations from within Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, population genetic studies, especially for autosomal genetic markers, are few relative to other world regions, so the study reported in this article examined autosomal markers for eight Tunisian and Libyan populations in order to place them in a global context.

Data were collected by TaqMan on 399 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms on 331 individuals from Tunisia and Libya. These data were combined with data on the same SNPs previously typed on 2,585 individuals from 57 populations from around the world. Where meaningful, close by SNPs were combined into multiallelic haplotypes. Data were evaluated by clustering, principal components, and population tree analyses. For a subset of 102 SNPs, data from the literature on seven additional North African populations were included in analyses. The study found average heterozygosity of the North African populations is high relative to the study's global samples, consistent with a complex demographic history. The Tunisian and Libyan samples form a discrete cluster in the global and regional views and can be separated from sub-Sahara, Middle East, and Europe. Within Tunisia, the Nebeur and Smar are outlier groups. Across North Africa, pervasive East-West geographical patterns were not found. Based on these findings, the authors conclude that known historical migrations and invasions did not displace or homogenize the genetic variation in the region, but rather enriched it. Even a small region like Tunisia contains considerable genetic diversity. Future studies across North Africa have the potential to increase our understanding of the historical demographic factors influencing the region. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2016