Due to its complex history of migrations and colonization of African, European and Asian people, the Tunisian territory is an ideal area to study the effects of cultural change on the genetic structure of human populations. We investigated the mtDNA genetic variation of Tunisian populations in order to detect the possible impact of recent historical events on their gene pool. Two Arab and three Berber communities were analysed using a comparison dataset of 45 other populations including African, Arabian, Asian, European and Near Eastern groups. The results obtained were compared with those produced using a large panel of autosomal SNPs. We observed a slight but important difference between the populations that inhabit the southern and central-northern areas of the country. Furthermore, robust signatures of genetic isolation were detected in two Berber populations (Nouvelle Zraoua and Tamezret) and in the seminomadic Arab group of the R’Baya. Our investigation suggests that the genetic structure of investigated southern Tunisian populations retains signatures of historical events which occurred between 7th-17th century, particularly the trans-Saharan slave trade and the emigration of Berbers in remote areas of the south during the Arab conquest.
Capocasa, Marco; Battaggia, Cinzia; Cancellieri, Emanuele; Lisi, Alessandro; Boukhchim, Nouri; Destro Bisol, Giovanni; di Lernia, Savino; and Anagnostou, Paolo, "Mitochondrial DNA variation of southern Tunisian populations" (2023). Human Biology Open Access Pre-Prints. 203.