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We report a comparison of worldwide genetic variation among 255 individuals by using autosomal, mitochondrial, and Y-chromosome polymorphisms. Variation is assessed by use of 30 autosomal restriction-site polymorphisms (RSPs), 60 autosomal short-tandem-repeat polymorphisms (STRPs), 13 Alu-insertion polymorphisms and one LINE-1 element, 611 bp of mitochondrial control-region sequence, and 10 Y-chromosome polymorphisms. Analysis of these data reveals substantial congruity among this diverse array of genetic systems. With the exception of the autosomal RSPs, in which an ascertainment bias exists, all systems show greater gene diversity in Africans than in either Europeans or Asians. Africans also have the largest total number of alleles, as well as the largest number of unique alleles, for most systems. G(ST) values are 11%-18% for the autosomal systems and are two to three times higher for the mtDNA sequence and Y-chromosome RSPs. This difference is expected because of the lower effective population size of mtDNA and Y-chromosomes. A lower value is seen for Y-chromosome STRs, reflecting a relative lack of continental population structure, as a result of rapid mutation and genetic drift. Africa has higher G(ST) values than does either Europe or Asia for all systems except the Y-chromosome STRs and Alus. All systems except the Y-chromosome STRs show less variation between populations within continents than between continents. These results are reassuring in their consistency and offer broad support for an African origin of modern human populations.

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American Journal of Human Genetics

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