The Y chromosome specific biallelic marker DYS271 defines the most common haplogroup (E3a) currently found in sub-Saharan Africa. A sister clade, E3b (E-M215), is rare in sub-Saharan Africa
, but very common in northern and eastern Africa
. On the whole, these two clades represent more than 70% of the Y chromosomes of the African continent. A third clade belonging to E3 (E3c or E-M329) has been recently reported to be present only in eastern Africa, at low frequencies.
In this study we analyzed more than 1,600 Y chromosomes from 55 African populations, using both new and previously described biallelic markers, in order to refine the phylogeny and the geographic distribution of the E3a haplogroup.
The most common E-DYS271 sub-clades (E-DYS271*, E-M191, E-U209) showed a non uniform distribution across sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the E-DYS271 chromosomes found in northern and western Africa belong to the paragroup E-DYS271*, which is rare in central and southern Africa. In these latter regions, haplogroups E-M191 and E-U209 show similar frequency distributions and coalescence ages (13 and 11 kyr, respectively), suggesting their involvement in the same migratory event/s.
By the use of two new phylogenetically equivalent markers (V38 and V89), the earlier tripartite structure of E3 haplogroup was resolved in favor of a common ancestor for haplogroups E-DYS271 (formerly E3a) and E-M329 (formerly E3c). The new topology of the E3 haplogroup is suggestive of a relatively recent eastern African origin for the majority of the chromosomes presently found in sub-Saharan Africa