Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Human maternal heritage in Andalusia (Spain): its composition reveals high internal complexity and distinctive influences of mtDNA haplogroups U6 and L in the western and eastern side of region

Candela L Hernández1, Guillermo Reales1, Jean-Michel Dugoujon2, Andrea Novelletto3, Juan Nicolás Rodríguez4, Pedro Cuesta5 and Rosario Calderón1*

Author Affiliations

1 Departamento de Zoología y Antropología Física, Facultad de Biología, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain

2 CNRS UMR 5288 Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Moléculaire et d’Imagerie de Synthèse (AMIS), Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III, 31073 Toulouse, France

3 Dipartimento di Biologia, Università Tor Vergata di Rome, Rome, Italy

4 Servicio de Hematología, Hospital Juan Ramón Jiménez, Huelva, Spain

5 Centro de Proceso de Datos, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain

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BMC Genetics 2014, 15:11  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-15-11

Published: 24 January 2014



The archeology and history of the ancient Mediterranean have shown that this sea has been a permeable obstacle to human migration. Multiple cultural exchanges around the Mediterranean have taken place with presumably population admixtures. A gravitational territory of those migrations has been the Iberian Peninsula. Here we present a comprehensive analysis of the maternal gene pool, by means of control region sequencing and PCR-RFLP typing, of autochthonous Andalusians originating from the coastal provinces of Huelva and Granada, located respectively in the west and the east of the region.


The mtDNA haplogroup composition of these two southern Spanish populations has revealed a wide spectrum of haplogroups from different geographical origins. The registered frequencies of Eurasian markers, together with the high incidence and diversification of African maternal lineages (15% of the total mitochondrial variability) among Huelva Andalusians when compared to its eastwards relatives of Granada and other Iberian populations, constitute relevant findings unknown up-to-date on the characteristics of mtDNA within Andalusia that testifies a female population substructure. Therefore, Andalusia must not be considered a single, unique population.


The maternal legacy among Andalusians reflects distinctive local histories, pointing out the role of the westernmost territory of Peninsular Spain as a noticeable recipient of multiple and diverse human migrations. The obtained results underline the necessity of further research on genetic relationships in both sides of the western Mediterranean, using carefully collected samples from autochthonous individuals. Many studies have focused on recent North African gene flow towards Iberia, yet scientific attention should be now directed to thoroughly study the introduction of European genes in northwest Africa across the sea, in order to determine its magnitude, timescale and methods, and to compare them to those terrestrial movements from eastern Africa and southwestern Asia.

Iberian Peninsula; Gene flow; Mediterranean space; mtDNA haplogroups U6 and L; European profiles