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Abstract

Genetic relationships between populations can be studied by comparing genotypic and allelic similarities. This investigation aims to demonstrate that selected autosomal microsatellite markers could be used to study the genetic structures of different populations living in northwest Venezuela, in Zulia State. Seven autosomal systems (CSF1PO, TPOX, TH01, vWA, D7S820, D13S317, and D5S818) were tested by PCR in a multiplex format on 688 different chromosomes from unrelated individuals living in Maracaibo, “Isla de Toas,” and “San José de Heras,” and from two Amerindian populations from the “Sierra de Perijá,” Barí' and Yukpa. Allele frequencies, Hardy–Weinberg equilibria, genetic distances, phylogenetic trees, and ethnic admixtures were estimated. The study shows the existence of a clear genetic difference among these populations in accordance with their historic evolution. The populations of Maracaibo and “Isla de Toas” showed a triracial origin, with a large European contribution, followed by an Amerindian component and a small African component. The indigenous groups, Barí' and Yukpa, showed exclusively an Amerindian component, and “San José de Heras” showed only an African component. These results indicate that microsatellite markers are useful for molecular anthropology in a regional and worldwide context and provide important genetic information about contemporary populations of Venezuela. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 17:451–459, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.