European Journal of Human Genetics

Autosomal genetics and Y-chromosome haplogroup L1b-M317 reveal Mount Lebanon Maronites as a persistently non-emigrating population

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Currently, there are 18 different religious communities living in Lebanon. While evolving primarily within Lebanon, these communities show a level of local isolation as demonstrated previously from their Y-haplogroup distributions. In order to trace the origins and migratory patterns that may have led to the genetic isolation and autosomal clustering in some of these communities we analyzed Y-chromosome STR and SNP sample data from 6327 individuals, in addition to whole genome autosomal sample data from 609 individuals, from Mount Lebanon and other surrounding communities. We observed Y chromosome L1b Levantine STR branching that occurred around 5000 years ago. Autosomal DNA analyses suggest that the North Lebanese Mountain Maronite community possesses an ancestral Fertile Crescent genetic component distinct from other populations in the region. We suggest that the Levantine L1b group split from the Caucasus ancestral group around 7300 years ago and migrated to the Levant. This event was distinct from the earlier expansions from the Caucasus region that contributed to the wider Levantine populations. Differential cultural adaption by populations from the North Lebanese Mountains are clearly aligned with the L1b haplotype STR haplogroup clusters, indicating pre-existing and persistent cultural barriers marked by the transmission of L1b lineages. Our findings highlight the value of uniparental haplogroups and STR haplotype data for elucidating biosocial events among these populations.