Genetic variation of the mitochondrial DNA genome in American Indians is at mutation‐drift equilibrium

Ranajit Chakraborty, Kenneth M. Weiss

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Several surveys have found evidence for founder effects in Amerindian mitochondrial DNA because of the existence of rare Asian morphs in high frequencies in some Amerindian populations and the occurrence of several new morphs not seen elsewhere in the world. These reports, however, do not address whether or not the present genetic variation in the mtDNA genome in Amerindians has reached the steady‐state distribution predicted by the mutation‐drift theory of population genetics. The present work suggests that in three Amerindian populations (Pima, Maya, and Ticuna) a steady state has apparently been reached, and hence the initial founder effect has probably dissipated during the evolution of Amerindians in the New World. This result is consistent with the genetic variation in nuclear genes in similar populations, shown through surveys of protein variation in earlier work and, more recently, in studies of restriction fragment length polymorphisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-506
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991



  • American Indians
  • Gene diversity
  • Maternal gene flow
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Mutationdrift balance

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