IBE: Genetically deciphering the origin of gypsies

IBE: Genetically deciphering the origin of gypsies

News from IBE (CSIC-UPF)

The Roma people, also known as gypsies , are currently the biggest and most widespread ethnic minority in the whole of Europe, especially present in the central and south-eastern regions of the continent. Their linguistic, anthropological, cultural and genetic characteristics put their origin in the Indian subcontinent but, due to the limited data and the low resolution of the genetic studies carried out to date, little was known about the genetic make-up of the first gypsy population and the genetic mixtures that took place when they arrived in Europe.

Researchers at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint centre of Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), have performed analysis to genetically define the origin of the gypsy people. By means of an in-depth study of known regions of uniparent genomes (those that come either from just the mother, as a mitochondrial genome, or only from the father, as the Y chromosome), it has been confirmed that the first gypsy people migrated from northern India and that probably the gypsy people come from a single small group of people who migrated at the same time, instead of different groups that migrated successively from the same place, as had been suggested.

"We have a lot of data on the cultural diversity and wealth of the Roma people, but we still have a long way to go before we can understand the genetic diversity of the gypsies", comments David Comas, head of the Human Genome Diversity group of the IBE and leader of the research. The Genographic Consortium , an international project that seeks to trace new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species and answer the millennia-old questions surrounding the genetic diversity of humanity, has also participated in the study, which is published in the September issue of the Journal of Human Genetics.

More information:

Begoña Martínez-Cruz, Isabel Mendizabal, Christine Harmant, Rosario de Pablo, Mihai Ioana, Dora Angelicheva, Anastasia Kouvatsi, Halyna Makukh, Mihai G Netea, Horolma Pamjav, Andrea Zalán, Ivailo Tournev, Elena Marushiakova, Vesselin Popov, Jaume Bertranpetit, Luba Kalaydjieva, Lluis Quintana-Murci, David Comas and the Genographic Consortium. Origins, admixture and founder lineages in European Roma. Journal of Human Genetics Doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2015.201. September 2015.