Ethnic Belarusians make up more than 80% of the nine and half million people inhabiting the Republic of Belarus. Belarusians together with Ukrainians and Russians represent the East Slavic linguistic group, largest both in numbers and territory, inhabiting East Europe alongside Baltic-, Finno-Permic- and Turkic-speaking people. Till date, only a limited number of low resolution genetic studies have been performed on this population. Therefore, with the phylogeographic analysis of 565 Y-chromosomes and 267 mitochondrial DNAs from six well covered geographic sub-regions of Belarus we strove to complement the existing genetic profile of eastern Europeans. Our results reveal that around 80% of the paternal Belarusian gene pool is composed of R1a, I2a and N1c Y-chromosome haplogroups – a profile which is very similar to the two other eastern European populations – Ukrainians and Russians. The maternal Belarusian gene pool encompasses a full range of West Eurasian haplogroups and agrees well with the genetic structure of central-east European populations. Our data attest that latitudinal gradients characterize the variation of the uniparentally transmitted gene pools of modern Belarusians. In particular, the Y-chromosome reflects movements of people in central-east Europe, starting probably as early as the beginning of the Holocene. Furthermore, the matrilineal legacy of Belarusians retains two rare mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, N1a3 and N3, whose phylogeographies were explored in detail after de novo sequencing of 20 and 13 complete mitogenomes, respectively, from all over Eurasia. Our phylogeographic analyses reveal that two mitochondrial DNA lineages, N3 and N1a3, both of Middle Eastern origin, might mark distinct events of matrilineal gene flow to Europe: during the mid-Holocene period and around the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, respectively.
|Figure 2. Phylogeny of mtDNA haplogroups and their relative frequencies in Belarusians.
The tree is rooted relative to the RSRS according to . Belarusian sub-populations are designated as BeE – East, BeWP – West Polesie, BeEP – East Polesie, BeN – North, BeC – Centre, BeW – West. Sample sizes and absolute frequencies are also given.
From the paper:
Frequencies of Belarusian mtDNA haplogroups do not differ considerably from other eastern European and Balkan populations, at least when major clades such as H1, H2, V, U5a and U5b, K, T and J are considered (Table S3). However, populations from the easternmost fringe of the eastern European region, the Volga-Uralic, have a decreased share of overall H mtDNAs and a noticeably increased frequency of haplogroup U4 as well as M-lineages compared to Belarusians (Table S3).