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Abstract

Thirty-two polymorphic Alu insertions (18 autosomal and 14 from the X chromosome) were studied in 192 individuals from two Amerindian populations of the Bolivian Altiplano (Aymara and Quechua speakers: the two main Andean linguistic groups), to provide relevant information about their genetic relationships and demographic processes. The main objective was to determine from genetic data whether the expansion of the Quechua language into Bolivia could be associated with demographic (Inca migration of Quechua-speakers from Peru into Bolivia) or cultural (language imposition by the Inca Empire) processes. Allele frequencies were used to assess the genetic relationships between these two linguistic groups. Our results indicated that the two Bolivian samples showed a high genetic similarity for both sets of markers and were clearly differentiated from the two Peruvian Quechua samples available in the literature. Additionally, our data were compared with the available literature to determine the genetic and linguistic structure, and East–West differentiation in South America. The close genetic relationship between the two Bolivian samples and their differentiation from the Quechua-speakers from Peru suggests that the Quechua language expansion in Bolivia took place without any important demographic contribution. Moreover, no clear geographical or linguistic structure was found for the Alu variation among South Amerindians. Am. J. Hum. Biol., 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.