Reconstructing the Genealogy of a BRCA1 Founder Mutation by Phylogenetic Analysis


*Corresponding Author: Fabio Marroni, Institute of Genetic Medicine, European Academy of Bolzano, Viale Druso 1, 39100 Bolzano, Italy. Tel: +39 0471 055 525, Fax: +39 0471 055 599 E-mail:


Estimating the age of founder mutations may contribute to improve our knowledge of population genetics and evolutionary history of diseases. Previous haplotype analysis suggested that the BRCA1*1499insA mutation was a founder allele, probably originated in Tuscany (Italy). Here, we collected additional pedigrees carrying this mutation, and applied a phylogenetic method for estimating mutation age. A chromosome segment of about 25 cM, including 37 short tandem repeats (STRs) on both sides of the BRCA1 gene (DeCode map), was typed in 50 subjects (28 mutation carriers) from 14 unrelated families. The time to the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of the mutation carriers was estimated by the length of the shared haplotype between all possible pairs of individuals. A function relating the length of the shared haplotype to the time to the MRCA was obtained by a computer simulation. This approach gives results comparable with those of other existing mutation-dating methods, but does not depend explicitly on population-specific parameters such as allele frequencies, provides narrower confidence intervals (CI), and allows one to build an extended genealogical tree of all mutation carriers. The 1499insA mutation shared by the investigated subjects was estimated to be present in an individual living about 30 generations ago (95% CL 22-56), or 750 years (95% CL 550-1,400).