The genetic structure of Western Balkan populations based on autosomal and haploid markers. K. Tambets1, L. Kovacevic1,2,3, D. Primorac4, G. Lauc5, A. Leskovac6, Z. Jakovski7, K. Drobnic8, S. Kovacevic9, T. Bego10, E. Metspalu11, D. Marjanovic2,5, R. Villems1,11 1) Estonian Biocentre, Tartu, Estonia; 2) Institute for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina; 3) Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina; 4) University Center of Forensic Science, Split, Croatia; 5) Genos doo, Zagreb, Croatia; 6) Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences, Belgrade, Serbia; 7) Institute of forensic medicine, criminology and medical deontology and Medical Faculty, University of "St. Cyril and Methodious", Skopje, Republic of Macedonia; 8) Faculty for Justice and Security, Ljubljana, Slovenia; 9) Forensic Center, Bozova glavica, Danilovgrad, Montenegro; 10) Faculty of Farmacy, University of Sarajevo, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina; 11) University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.

   Contemporary inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula belong to several ethnic groups of diverse cultural backgrounds. In this study, three ethnic groups from Bosnia and Herzegovina - Bosniacs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs - and four other Slavic-speaking Western Balkan populations: Serbians, Croatians, Macedonians from Republic of Macedonia, Montenegrins, and Albanian-speaking Kosovars have been characterized for the genetic variation of 660 000 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms. Genetic structuring of Western Balkan populations has been analyzed in a global context. Comparison of the variation within autosomal and haploid data sets of studied Western Balkan populations revealed their genetic closeness regardless of a genetic system inspected, in particular among the Slavic speakers. Hence, culturally diverse Western Balkan populations are genetically very similar to each other. Only the Kosovars show slight differences both in the variance of autosomal and uniparentally inherited markers from the other populations of the region, possibly also due to their historically strict patrilineality. In a more general perspective, our results reveal clear genetic continuity between the Near Eastern and European populations, lending further credence to extensive, likely multiple and possibly bidirectional ancient gene flows between the Near East and Europe, cutting through the Balkans.

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