About mtDNA Haplogroups (Maternal Ancient Ancestry)
mtDNA is used extensively by scientists to study maternal ancestry. The uniqueness of mtDNA lies in its strict matrilineal inheritance pattern. Unlike all other types of DNA, the mtDNA is passed down from mother to child relatively unchanged from generation to generation. By testing the mtDNA, scientists are able to view the genetic markers of an individual's maternal ancestors from thousands of generations ago.
The main type of ancestral marker found in mtDNA is the SNP marker (mtDNA does not have STR markers). SNPs are small changes in the DNA which happen naturally and randomly over time. The mutation rate of SNP markers is extremely slow, in the order of thousands of years, so SNPs are excellent for tracing ancient maternal ancestry. Once a SNP occurs in the mtDNA of a female, it is passed down to all of her offspring, and is inherited along the maternal line. The mtDNA of every person living today contains a unique collection of SNPs inherited from maternal ancestors over the past tens of thousands of year.
All humans living today can be classified into a specific mtDNA haplogroup in the mtDNA Tree based on SNP markers found in their mtDNA.
The mtDNA consists of 3 main regions, namely HVR-1, HVR-2 and Coding region. SNP markers can be found in all 3 regions of the mtDNA. Testing SNPs the HVR-1 and HVR-2 regions of the mtDNA allows scientists to predict an individual's haplogroup. However, testing all 3 regions of the mtDNA is usually required in order to confirm an individual's haplogroup and subclade.
Human mtDNA haplogroups are named using the letters of the alphabet, A to Z. Each mtDNA haplogroup can be further subclassified into finer branches called subclades. Subclades are named using numbers and lower case letters. For example, H1a is a subclade of mtDNA haplogroup H.
Mitochondrial Eve is the name given by researchers to the woman who is the most recent common matrilineal ancestor of all living humans and at the root of the mtDNA phylogenetic tree.
By testing your mtDNA SNPs, you will receive your own unique SNP profile and determine your mtDNA haplogroup.
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