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Keywords:

  • mtDNA haplogroups;
  • sprint athlete status;
  • elite athletes;
  • case–control study

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited solely along the matriline, giving insight into both ancestry and prehistory. Individuals of sub-Saharan ancestry are overrepresented in sprint athletics, suggesting a genetic advantage. The purpose of this study was to compare the mtDNA haplogroup data of elite groups of Jamaican and African-American sprinters against respective controls to assess any differences in maternal lineage. The first hypervariable region of mtDNA was haplogrouped in elite Jamaican athletes (N=107) and Jamaican controls (N=293), and elite African-American athletes (N=119) and African-American controls (N=1148). Exact tests of total population differentiation were performed on total haplogroup frequencies. The frequency of non-sub-Saharan haplogroups in Jamaican athletes and Jamaican controls was similar (1.87% and 1.71%, respectively) and lower than that of African-American athletes and African-American controls (21.01% and 8.19%, respectively). There was no significant difference in total haplogroup frequencies between Jamaican athletes and Jamaican controls (P=0.551 ± 0.005); however, there was a highly significant difference between African-American athletes and African-American controls (P<0.001). The finding of statistically similar mtDNA haplogroup distributions in Jamaican athletes and Jamaican controls suggests that elite Jamaican sprinters are derived from the same source population and there is neither population stratification nor isolation for sprint performance. The significant difference between African-American sprinters and African-American controls suggests that the maternal admixture may play a role in sprint performance.