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Investigative Genetics

, 1:13

First Online: 01 December 2010Received: 24 May 2010Accepted: 01 December 2010


BackgroundBrazilian Amerindians have experienced a drastic population decrease in the past 500 years. Indeed, many native groups from eastern Brazil have vanished. However, their mitochondrial mtDNA haplotypes, still persist in Brazilians, at least 50 million of whom carry Amerindian mitochondrial lineages. Our objective was to test whether, by analyzing extant rural populations from regions anciently occupied by specific Amerindian groups, we could identify potentially authentic mitochondrial lineages, a strategy we have named -homopatric targeting-.

ResultsWe studied 173 individuals from Queixadinha, a small village located in a territory previously occupied by the now extinct Botocudo Amerindian nation. Pedigree analysis revealed 74 unrelated matrilineages, which were screened for Amerindian mtDNA lineages by restriction fragment length polymorphism. A cosmopolitan control group was composed of 100 individuals from surrounding cities. All Amerindian lineages identified had their hypervariable segment HVSI sequenced, yielding 13 Amerindian haplotypes in Queixadinha, nine of which were not present in available databanks or in the literature. Among these haplotypes, there was a significant excess of haplogroup C 70% and absence of haplogroup A lineages, which were the most common in the control group. The novelty of the haplotypes and the excess of the C haplogroup suggested that we might indeed have identified Botocudo lineages. To validate our strategy, we studied teeth extracted from 14 ancient skulls of Botocudo Amerindians from the collection of the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro. We recovered mtDNA sequences from all the teeth, identifying only six different haplotypes a low haplotypic diversity of 0.8352 ± 0.0617, one of which was present among the lineages observed in the extant individuals studied.

ConclusionsThese findings validate the technique of homopatric targeting as a useful new strategy to study the peopling and colonization of the New World, especially when direct analysis of genetic material is not possible.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-2041-2223-1-13 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Vanessa F Gonçalves, Flavia C Parra contributed equally to this work.

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