Genetic structure of Eastern European populations

By Razib Khan | May 10, 2009 10:58 am

A few months ago I relayed preliminary data which suggested that Estonians are not like Finns. Now a new paper, Genetic Structure of Europeans: A View from the North-East:

Using principal component (PC) analysis, we studied the genetic constitution of 3,112 individuals from Europe as portrayed by more than 270,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) genotyped with the Illumina Infinium platform. In cohorts where the sample size was >100, one hundred randomly chosen samples were used for analysis to minimize the sample size effect, resulting in a total of 1,564 samples. This analysis revealed that the genetic structure of the European population correlates closely with geography. The first two PCs highlight the genetic diversity corresponding to the northwest to southeast gradient and position the populations according to their approximate geographic origin. The resulting genetic map forms a triangular structure with a) Finland, b) the Baltic region, Poland and Western Russia, and c) Italy as its vertexes, and with d) Central- and Western Europe in its centre. …When the PC analysis was confined to the 1,019 Estonian individuals (0.1% of the Estonian population), a fine structure emerged that correlated with the geography of individual counties. With at least two cohorts available from several countries, genetic substructures were investigated in Czech, Finnish, German, Estonian and Italian populations. Together with previously published data, our results allow the creation of a comprehensive European genetic map that will greatly facilitate inter-population genetic studies including genome wide association studies (GWAS).

Dienekes has posted some of the supplemental figures, which are of interest, but below I’ve reformatted the primary PC chart with further labels as well as some cutting & pasting to fit in the page width of this weblog:


estonfig.png
It is noted in the text that the Kuusamo sample is from a population which settled the region 300 years ago and so was likely subject to a bottleneck, just like Iceland. The Russia sample is from Tver, a bit to the northwest of Moscow, so I’m a bit intrigued by its position in relation to the Baltic populations and the Poles. Specifically, historically Lithuania has been interposed between Poland and Russia, and from the 14th century onward Poland and Lithuania were politically united, ergo, the term “Poland-Lithuania.” But after the official fusion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland in 1569 the Lithuanian nobility was Polonized, so that the modern Lithuanian speaking nation are the descendants of the unassimilated peasantry whose identity crystallized in the wake of 19th century nationalist movements. As for the Russians, the current expanse of the Russian nation is due to a process of gradual demographic expansion from what is today Ukraine north and east. The existence of Finnic enclaves across northeast Russia is a testament to the dominance of these peoples before the Slavic expansion. In other words, the PC chart probably reflects a linguistic-geographic configuration extant before the year 1000. Despite the Russian expansion to the east, and their current encirclement of the Baltic and Finnic populations, the genetic data seem to hint at their previous relationship with Slavic groups to the West.
Related: Genetic map of Europe; genes vary as a function of distance , Genetic Map of East Asia, The Genetic Map of Europe, More genetic maps of Europe, Finns as European genetic outliers, Population substructure in Japan, Finns as European outliers, The genetics of Fenno-Scandinavia, Korean genetic relationships and Human population structure, part n.
Citation: Nelis M, Esko T, Mägi R, Zimprich F, Zimprich A, et al. (2009) Genetic Structure of Europeans: A View from the North-East. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5472. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005472

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Genetics
  • http://netfortius.wordpress.com Stefan

    Interesting your summary missed a country (Romania) having had to be considered – in my opinion – for various distinctive reasons, such as:
    - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/revealed-the-face–of-the-first-european-1678537.html
    - being a “Latin island in a Slavic sea”

  • John emerson

    Evidence seems to be accumulating for a major* prehistoric event in Finland. Both the linguistic and the genetics diverge sharply from the European norm, but IIRC they aren’t congruent and must be the outcome of a complex sequence of events.
    *Major in historical interest and uniqueness, not major for non-Finns.
    Finnlander buffs ought to look at Ross’s “The Finn Factor”. (Ross is a Finnlander despite the name). It’s a fun semi-pro book about the Finnish-American experience. One interesting thing is that while almost all Finns were nominal Lutherans, Finnish-American communities were centered on temperance halls, which were Christian but outside the Church. The Scandinavian* Lutheran state churches were hierarchal in a basically feudal way, and while the other Scandinavian countries had less elitist churches, the Finns apparently didn’t, except for the temperance halls.
    The drunken Finn stereotype is not untrue. Drunkenness and temperance feed one another.
    *Strictly speaking, Finns are not Scandinavians, except for those bilingual in Swedish, and this is not just a linguist’s quibble. The Finnes regarded themselves, and were regarded by others, as mysterious and unique.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Strictly speaking, Finns are not Scandinavians, except for those bilingual in Swedish, and this is not just a linguist’s quibble.
    i have seen finns correct others who refer to them as scandinavian. i.e., it is fenno-scandinavian. though the term nordic and norden does include finland i think.

  • Juuro

    It is slightly unfortunate that Helsinki was chosen to represent south part of Finland. Helsinki, being both the commercial and political capitol of the country, is rather a fair sampling of the lineages all over the nation, than a distinct entity like Kuusamo.
    Yes, Razib; I have no trouble being referred to as Nordic. But Scandinavian I am not.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Helsinki, being both the commercial and political capitol of the country, is rather a fair sampling of the lineages all over the nation, than a distinct entity like Kuusamo.
    follow my links, there has been genetics which tries to sample all of finland.

  • http://www.polishgenes.blogspot.com Davide

    IMO most Russian sample sets will cluster west of Ukraine, and often “in” Poland. Just a hunch I have, but I’m pretty sure it’s right.
    Btw, the more I look at that PCA, the more it doesn’t seem so strange from the Finnish point of view.
    Both Balts and Finns are the most extreme Northern Europeans in terms of PC1, with the Finns being much more “uniqe” due to isolation even from the Balts for a long while. Hence the two types of N around the Baltic (Baltic and Finnic), and that massive split at PC2.
    All the other Euros look to have more recent West Asian admix to some degree. I’m betting that’s the Neolithic talking.

  • Lassi Hippeläinen

    The Russia sample is from Tver, a bit to the northwest of Moscow, so I’m a bit intrigued by its position in relation to the Baltic populations and the Poles.
    The Tver region is a singularly bad place to sample Russians…
    http://www.helsinki.fi/lehdet/uh/498d.htm

  • adrian jones

    Fascinating, and indicative of the continual and continuing small genetic shifts that are occurring. Do any of these result in a greater ability to exist in that particular environment; do they improve the success rate for producing children, being seen as more attractive in that population for instance? In addition of course they reflect the fact that most of us, at least until very recently, stayed within a few miles of our birth places for our whole lives. The Finns in particular are so separate as to suggest a quite different origin (my ignorance) or long term isolation with minimal to no immigration/mixing. Coninuing studies like these will be fascinating as long as they are not troublesome by mis-use as geopolitical tools to provide excuses for border rearrangements.
    adrian

  • windy

    The Scandinavian* Lutheran state churches were hierarchal in a basically feudal way, and while the other Scandinavian countries had less elitist churches, the Finns apparently didn’t, except for the temperance halls.

    That theory seems a little off. The Nordic revivalist churches were pretty big in Finland, and temperance movements were powerful in other Nordic countries, so there doesn’t seem to be have been such a big difference. And “feudal” seems a little melodramatic?

    The Tver region is a singularly bad place to sample Russians…

    There are a lot more Russians living there now than Karelians. But yes, it’s an interesting choice.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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