The genetics of Mexico recapitulates Native American substructure and affects biomedical traits

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Science  13 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6189, pp. 1280-1285
DOI: 10.1126/science.1251688

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The population structure of Native Mexicans

The genetics of indigenous Mexicans exhibit substantial geographical structure, some as divergent from each other as are existing populations of Europeans and Asians. By performing genome-wide analyses on Native Mexicans from differing populations, Moreno-Estrada et al. successfully recapitulated the pre-Columbian substructure of Mexico. This ancestral structure is evident among cosmopolitan Mexicans and is correlated with subcontinental origins and medically relevant aspects of lung function. These findings exemplify the importance of understanding the genetic contributions of admixed individuals.

Science, this issue p. 1280


Mexico harbors great cultural and ethnic diversity, yet fine-scale patterns of human genome-wide variation from this region remain largely uncharacterized. We studied genomic variation within Mexico from over 1000 individuals representing 20 indigenous and 11 mestizo populations. We found striking genetic stratification among indigenous populations within Mexico at varying degrees of geographic isolation. Some groups were as differentiated as Europeans are from East Asians. Pre-Columbian genetic substructure is recapitulated in the indigenous ancestry of admixed mestizo individuals across the country. Furthermore, two independently phenotyped cohorts of Mexicans and Mexican Americans showed a significant association between subcontinental ancestry and lung function. Thus, accounting for fine-scale ancestry patterns is critical for medical and population genetic studies within Mexico, in Mexican-descent populations, and likely in many other populations worldwide.

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