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Open Access Research article

The Mediterranean Sea as a barrier to gene flow: evidence from variation in and around the F7 and F12 genomic regions

Georgios Athanasiadis1, Emili González-Pérez1, Esther Esteban1, Jean-Michel Dugoujon2, Mark Stoneking3 and Pedro Moral1*

Author Affiliations

1 Unitat d'Antropologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

2 CNRS and University Toulouse III Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France

3 Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:84  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-84

Published: 27 March 2010

Abstract

Background

The Mediterranean has a long history of interactions among different peoples. In this study, we investigate the genetic relationships among thirteen population samples from the broader Mediterranean region together with three other groups from the Ivory Coast and Bolivia with a particular focus on the genetic structure between North Africa and South Europe. Analyses were carried out on a diverse set of neutral and functional polymorphisms located in and around the coagulation factor VII and XII genomic regions (F7 and F12).

Results

Principal component analysis revealed a significant clustering of the Mediterranean samples into North African and South European groups consistent with the results from the hierarchical AMOVA, which showed a low but significant differentiation between groups from the two shores. For the same range of geographic distances, populations from each side of the Mediterranean were found to differ genetically more than populations within the same side. To further investigate this differentiation, we carried out haplotype analyses, which provided partial evidence that sub-Saharan gene flow was higher towards North Africa than South Europe.

Conclusions

As there is no consensus between the two genomic regions regarding gene flow through the Sahara, it is hard to reach a solid conclusion about its role in the differentiation between the two Mediterranean shores and more data are necessary to reach a definite conclusion. However our data suggest that the Mediterranean Sea was at least partially a barrier to gene flow between the two shores.