The very first research into the genetic diversity of Italians shows that it dates back 19,000 years
Researchers have first dissected the evolutionary history of Italians, revealing that their extraordinary diversity dates back 19,000 years.
The study shows that Northern and Southern Italians evolved differently over time due to contrasting environmental and ecological conditions that resulted in the peculiarities of their gene pools.
The results help explain the differences in the health of both groups, as well as their predisposition to certain diseases.
The team sequenced the entire genome of participants from both sites, resulting in over 17 million genetic variants compared to 600 human remains from the Upper Paleolithic to the Bronze Age.
The team identified traces of postglacial migrations in people in Northern Italy, who also had a close relationship with ancient European cultures such as the Magdalenian and the Epigravettian – these groups were mainly in what is now France and Spain.
On the other hand, Southern Italians have been found to have a close relationship with Neolithic human remains from Anatolia, modern-day Turkey and the Middle East, and with Bronze Age remains from the South Caucasus – a region stretching into Africa.
Researchers also discovered particularities characteristic of people in the north and south that have evolved through different environments that help reduce the risk of kidney inflammation and skin cancer, as well as the risk of diabetes and obesity, promoting longer life.
Scroll down for video
Researchers have first dissected the evolutionary history of Italians, revealing that their extraordinary diversity dates back to 19,000 years ago. The results showed an exact culture that affected both the northern and southern regions of the country
Marco Sazzini, one of the principal investigators of this study and professor of molecular anthropology at the University of Bologna, said, “Understanding the evolutionary history of the ancestors of Italians will help us better understand the demographic processes and those of environmental interactions. that formed the complex mosaic of descent components of the contemporary European population. ‘
“This research provides valuable information to fully appreciate the biological characteristics of the current Italian population.”
“Moreover, it has given us insight into the deep causes that can affect the health of this population or its predisposition to a number of diseases.”
For this study, it is published in BMC Biologythe team sequenced the entire genome of 40 participants, producing 17,495,290 single nucleotide variants (SNVs).
The researchers were able to map the location of the ancient civilizations that affected genetic diversity among both groups of Italians
After analyzing the genomes of the southern Italian participants, researchers found that the traces of post-glacial migrations were not present and noted that more recent events significantly reformed their gene pool
The scientists then compared the SNVs with the genetic variants observed in 35 other populations from Europe and the Mediterranean, then with those found nearly 600 human remains from the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 years ago) to the Bronze Age (4,000 years ago) ).
“These comparisons reached such a high degree of precision that it was possible to extend the study to very distant time periods compared to those from previous studies,” the team said in a statement.
After these investigations, the team determined traces left in the gene pool by events that followed the last Ice Age that ended about 19,000 years ago.
The oldest events that left a trail in Italian DNA were the migrations that took place during the Neolithic and Bronze Age, which occurred 7,000 and 4,000 years ago.
“The results of this study, on the contrary, show that the earliest biological adaptations to the environment and migrations underlying the extraordinary genetic diversity of Italians are much older than previously thought,” the team explained.
The team also evaluated and measured differences between the gene pools of participants from Northern and Southern Italy.
Stefania Sarno, a researcher at the University of Bologna and one of the co-first authors of the article, said, “We are seeing some partially overlapping demographic trends among the ancestors of these two groups from 30,000 years ago and for the remaining years of the Supreme Palaeolithic. ‘
“However, we observed a significant variation between their gene pools from the late ice age, so several thousand years before those major migrations that took place in Italy from the Neolithic era.”
The DNA of people living in Northern Italy shows traces of these post-glacial migrations.
They also have links to ancient European cultures that lived mainly in what is now France and Spain.
In addition to traces from different cultures, the study also revealed separate details in the gene pools of two groups. Northern Italians’ metabolism has been modified to digest a diet high in calories and fat, putting them at a lower risk of diabetes. Southern Italians’ pigment that provides skin color has been changed, making them less likely to develop skin cancer
However, the team discovered ancient ancient ancestor components from Eastern European hunter collections that spanned the Earth 36,000 to 26,000 years ago.
This group later spread to Western Europe with migratory movements of ‘glacial refugia’ during the late ice age.
After analyzing the genomes of the southern Italian participants, researchers discovered that traces of post-glacial migrations were not present and noted that more recent events significantly reformed their gene pool.
This group has closer genetic relationships to Neolithic human remains from what is now Turkey and the Middle East.
There are also traces of Bronze Age remains discovered in northern parts of Africa.
“Unlike the north of Italy, the south was an important hub for migration movements, which first spread agriculture to the Mediterranean during the Neolithic transition and then promoted a new ancestry during the Bronze Age,” the team explained.
In addition to traces from different cultures, the study also revealed separate details in the gene pools of two groups.
Those moving north experienced abrupt climate changes and environmental pressures similar to those of the Last Glacial Maximum, forcing biological adaptations.
For example, their metabolism changed so that they could digest a diet high in calories and fat.
The study shows that Northern and Southern Italians evolved differently over time due to contrasting environmental and environmental conditions that resulted in the peculiarities of their gene pools
Paolo Garagnani, professor of experimental medicine and pathophysiology at the University of Bologna, said: ‘In the subjects from Northern Italy, we saw changes in the gene networks that regulate insulin and body heat production, as well as those responsible for adipose tissue metabolism . ‘
“These changes could have led to key factors that have reduced susceptibility to diseases such as diabetes and obesity.”
Southern Italians, however, basked in a warmer climate than their counterparts.
This environment caused changes in the genes encoding mucins, proteins found in the mucous membranes of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract that prevent pathogens from attacking the tissues.
Paolo Abondio, Ph.D. student at the University of Bologna and another co-lead author of this study, said, “These genetic adaptations may have evolved in response to ancient microorganisms.”
“Some scientists have associated some of these genetic variants with a decreased susceptibility to Berger’s disease, a common kidney inflammation that is indeed less common in the south than in northern Italy.”
When it came to Southern Italian idiosyncrasies, the researchers found the genes that modify melanin production, the pigment that gives the skin tone.
They think this happened because of more intense sunlight and because of a higher number of sunny days in Mediterranean regions.
These changes may also have contributed to a lower incidence of skin cancer among Southern Italians.
Claudio Franceschi, professor emeritus at the University of Bologna, said, “We have found that some of these genetic variants are also associated with a longer lifespan.”
“This also applies to other genetic modifications that are characteristic of Southern Italians.”
“These are found on genes involved in arachidonic acid metabolism and on genes encoding FoxO transcription factors.”