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Genomic microsatellites identify shared Jewish ancestry intermediate between Middle Eastern and European populations

Naama M Kopelman1*, Lewi Stone1, Chaolong Wang2, Dov Gefel3, Marcus W Feldman4, Jossi Hillel5 and Noah A Rosenberg267*

Author Affiliations

1 Porter School of Environmental Studies, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel

2 Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

3 Department of Medicine, Barzilai Hospital, Ashkelon, Israel

4 Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA

5 Robert H Smith Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics, Faculty of Agriculture, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel

6 Department of Human Genetics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

7 Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

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BMC Genetics 2009, 10:80  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-10-80

Published: 8 December 2009



Genetic studies have often produced conflicting results on the question of whether distant Jewish populations in different geographic locations share greater genetic similarity to each other or instead, to nearby non-Jewish populations. We perform a genome-wide population-genetic study of Jewish populations, analyzing 678 autosomal microsatellite loci in 78 individuals from four Jewish groups together with similar data on 321 individuals from 12 non-Jewish Middle Eastern and European populations.


We find that the Jewish populations show a high level of genetic similarity to each other, clustering together in several types of analysis of population structure. Further, Bayesian clustering, neighbor-joining trees, and multidimensional scaling place the Jewish populations as intermediate between the non-Jewish Middle Eastern and European populations.


These results support the view that the Jewish populations largely share a common Middle Eastern ancestry and that over their history they have undergone varying degrees of admixture with non-Jewish populations of European descent.