HLA gene frequencies in the Italian Piacenza province reveal traces of pre-indoeuropean ancestors

E. Capelli, C. Tamburnotti, M. Grassi, M. Martinetti, A. Rossi, M. Cuccia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The genetic structure of Piacenza province (Northern Italy) has been studied with the aim to find genetic traces of ancient Ligurians. Many history and archaeological data have indicated that this people inhabited North West Italy coming from Iberian through Mediterranean coast and extended their power from Apennines to Alps until roman conquest. After arrival of Romans, Ligurians retreated between Ticino river and Apennines. It seems possible that some groups colonised the highest part of the mountains without mixing with other people for a long time. A synthetic Italian map based on a study of Piazza et al.(1998) from which north-west Apennines display an area that appears as the pole of a gene frequencies gradient, suggested a more extended study in this region. 829 individuals, 289 of which from three generations, born and resident in Piacenza Province were analysed for MHC genes (HLA-A, B, DR, DQ loci; C4A, C4B, Bf, TNFA, LTA) and microsatellite polymorphism (STR). The HLA-A and B genes frequencies of the Piacenza province were compared with those of the close regions Lombardy, Piedimont, Liguria, and Tuscany, the entire Emilia region, the distant Italian regions Veneto and Sardinia and with population samples from Spain, Basques and South Eastern France previously published. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was performed to represent in two dimension the similarity between the areas and the correlations between the genes frequencies. Hierarchical Cluster Analysis (HCA) was also applied using Nei's Genetic Distances. Our results show that the population of the mountainous region of Piacenza Province and of the close Pavia Province are the most genetically different from those of the Po Valley and other Italian regions. Moreover Piacenza province, particularly the hilly and mountainous part resulted to have the most genetic sharing with Basque, suggesting the intriguing hypothesis of the presence in the mountainous and reserved areas in Europe, of genetic traces derived from common ancestors. Linguistic and archaeological data agree with this hypothesis and point to the presence of a Mesolithic culture of pre indo-european ancestors whose genetic traces are maintained in the modern inhabitants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280
Number of pages1
JournalEuropean Journal of Immunogenetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Genetics


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