Despite recent advances in population genomics, much remains to be elucidated with regard to East Asian population history. The Ainu, a hunter-gatherer population of northern Japan and Sakhalin island of Russia, are thought to be key to elucidating the prehistory of Japan and the peopling of East Asia. Here, we study the genetic relationship of the Ainu with other East Asian and Siberian populations outside the Japanese archipelago using genome-wide genotyping data. We find that the Ainu represent a deep branch of East Asian diversity more basal than all present-day East Asian farmers. However, we did not find a genetic connection between the Ainu and populations of the Tibetan plateau, rejecting their long-held hypothetical connection based on Y chromosome data. Unlike all other East Asian populations investigated, the Ainu have a closer genetic relationship with northeast Siberians than with central Siberians, suggesting ancient connections among populations around the sea of Okhotsk. We also detect a recent genetic contribution of the Ainu to nearby populations, but no evidence for reciprocal recent gene flow is observed. Whole genome sequencing of contemporary and ancient Ainu individuals will be helpful to understand the details of the deep history of East Asians.
- Received May 27, 2015.
- Accepted October 19, 2015.
- Copyright © 2015, The Genetics Society of America