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Keywords:

  • Ossetians;
  • Y chromosome;
  • mtDNA

Summary

Ossetians are a unique group in the Caucasus, in that they are the only ethnic group found on both the north and south slopes of the Caucasus, and moreover they speak an Indo-European language in contrast to their Caucasian-speaking neighbours. We analyzed mtDNA HV1 sequences, Y chromosome binary genetic markers, and Y chromosome short tandem repeat (Y-STR) variability in three North Ossetian groups and compared these data to published data for two additional North Ossetian groups and for South Ossetians. The mtDNA data suggest a common origin for North and South Ossetians, whereas the Y-haplogroup data indicate that North Ossetians are more similar to other North Caucasian groups, and South Ossetians are more similar to other South Caucasian groups, than to each other. Also, with respect to mtDNA, Ossetians are significantly more similar to Iranian groups than to Caucasian groups. We suggest that a common origin of Ossetians from Iran, followed by subsequent male-mediated migrations from their Caucasian neighbours, is the most likely explanation for these results. Thus, genetic studies of such complex and multiple migrations as the Ossetians can provide additional insights into the circumstances surrounding such migrations.