Resources on Ainu DNA

Genetic origins of the Ainu inferred from combined DNA analyses of maternal and paternal lineages

Source: Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 49, Number 4, April 2004 , pp. 187-193(7)


The Ainu, a minority ethnic group from the northernmost island of Japan, was investigated for DNA polymorphisms both from maternal (mitochondrial DNA) and paternal (Y chromosome) lineages extensively. Other Asian populations inhabiting North, East, and Southeast Asia were also examined for detailed phylogeographic analyses at the mtDNA sequence type as well as Y-haplogroup levels. The maternal and paternal gene pools of the Ainu contained 25 mtDNA sequence types and three Y-haplogroups, respectively. Eleven of the 25 mtDNA sequence types were unique to the Ainu and accounted for over 50% of the population, whereas 14 were widely distributed among other Asian populations. Of the 14 shared types, the most frequently shared type was found in common among the Ainu, Nivkhi in northern Sakhalin, and Koryaks in the Kamchatka Peninsula. Moreover, analysis of genetic distances calculated from the mtDNA data revealed that the Ainu seemed to be related to both the Nivkhi and other Japanese populations (such as mainland Japanese and Okinawans) at the population level. On the paternal side, the vast majority (87.5%) of the Ainu exhibited the Asian-specific YAP+ lineages (Y-haplogroups D-M55* and D-M125), which were distributed only in the Japanese Archipelago in this analysis. On the other hand, the Ainu exhibited no other Y-haplogroups (C-M8, O-M175*, and O-M122*) common in mainland Japanese and Okinawans. It is noteworthy that the rest of the Ainu gene pool was occupied by the paternal lineage (Y-haplogroup C-M217*) from North Asia including Sakhalin. Thus, the present findings suggest that the Ainu retain a certain degree of their own genetic uniqueness, while having higher genetic affinities with other regional populations in Japan and the Nivkhi among Asian populations.

Analysis of HLA genes and haplotypes in Ainu (from Hokkaido, northern Japan) supports the premise that they descent from Upper Paleolithic populations of East Asia 
Authors: Bannai, M.1; Ohashi, J.2; Harihara, S.3; Takahashi, Y.1; Juji, T.4; Omoto, K.5; Tokunaga, K.2

Source: Tissue Antigens, Volume 55, Number 2, 1 February 2000 ,

The Ainu people are assumed to be the descendants of pre-agricultural native populations of northern Japan, while the majority of population of present-day Japan (Hondo-Japanese) is considered to have descended mainly from post-neolithic migrants. Sequence-level polymorphisms of the HLA-class I (HLA-A and HLA-B) genes were investigated in DNA samples of 50 Ainu living in Hidaka district, Hokkaido. HLA-A*2402, A*0201, A*0206, A*2601, A*3101, B*1501, B*5101, B*3901, and B*3501 were observed at frequencies of more than 10% and most of these have previously been found in populations of not only Asians but also North and South American Indians. A*68012, which has not so far been detected in Hondo-Japanese, was found in the Ainu (3%). On the other hand, several alleles common in Hondo-Japanese, including HLA-A*3303, A*1101, B*4403, B*5201, B*5401, B*4601, and B*0702 were infrequent in Ainu (0-1%). Correspondence and neighbor-joining analyses of various populations based on HLA-A, -B and -DRB1 gene frequencies enabled distinction between Asian, Native South American, European, and African populations. The Ainu, as well as Tlingit (Na-Dene), were placed midway between other East Asians, including Hondo Japanese, and Native South Americans (Amerindians) in the correspondence analysis. Furthermore, several HLA-A-B and HLA-B-DR-DQ haplotypes common in the Ainu, are shared with some Native American populationsThese observations strongly suggest a unique place for the Ainu as descendants of some Upper Paleolithic populations of East Asia, from whom some Native Americans may have descended.

Genetic link between Asians and native Americans: evidence from HLA genes and haplotypes

Katsushi Tokunaga, , a, Jun Ohashia, Makoto Bannaib and Takeo Jujic

Received 16 May 2001; accepted 15 June 2001 Available online 30 August 2001.

We have been studying polymorphisms of HLA class I and II genes in East Asians including Buryat in Siberia, Mongolian, Han Chinese, Man Chinese, Korean Chinese, South Korean, and Taiwan indigenous populations in collaboration with many Asian scientists. Regional populations in Japan, Hondo-Japanese, Ryukyuan, and Ainu, were also studied. HLA-A, -B, and -DRB1 gene frequencies were subjected to the correspondence analysis and calculation of DA distances. The correspondence analysis demonstrated several major clusters of human populations in the world. “Mongoloid” populations were highly diversified, in which several clusters such as Northeast Asians, Southeast Asians, Oceanians, and Native Americans were observed. Interestingly, an indigenous population in North Japan, Ainu, was placed relatively close to Native Americans in the correspondence analysis. Distribution of particular HLA-A, -B, -DRB1 alleles and haplotypes was also analyzed in relation to migration and dispersal routes of ancestral populations. A number of alleles and haplotypes showed characteristic patterns of regional distribution. For example, B39-HR5-DQ7 (B*3901-DRB1*1406-DQB1*0301) was shared by Ainu and Native Americans. A24-Cw8-B48 was commonly observed in Taiwan indigenous populations, Maori in New Zealand, Orochon in Northeast China, Inuit, and Tlingit. These findings further support the genetic link between East Asians and Native Americans. We have proposed that various ancestral populations in East Asia, marked by different HLA haplotypes, had migrated and dispersed through multiple routes. Moreover, relatively small genetic distances and the sharing of several HLA haplotypes between Ainu and Native Americans suggest that these populations are descendants of some Upper Paleolithic populations of East Asia.

If the Ainu  (or a group related distantly to them) contributed to the native American DNA pool, it was probably at a very low level. No Y chromosome or mt DNA have shown up in native Americans yet.


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