Complete sequencing of 62 mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) belonging (or very closely related) to haplogroup H revealed that this mtDNA haplogroup - by far the most common in Europe - is subdivided into numerous subhaplogroups, with at least 15 of them (H1-H15) identifiable by characteristic mutations. All the haplogroup H mtDNAs found in 5,743 subjects from 43 populations were then screened for diagnostic markers of subhaplogroups H1 and H3. This survey showed that both subhaplogroups display frequency peaks, centered in Iberia and surrounding areas, with distributions declining toward the northeast and southeast - a pattern extremely similar to that previously reported for mtDNA haplogroup V. Furthermore, the coalescence ages of H1 and H3 (∼11,000 years) are close to that previously reported for V. These findings have major implications for the origin of Europeans, since they attest that the Franco-Cantabrian refuge area was indeed the source of late-glacial expansions of hunter-gatherers that repopulated much of Central and Northern Europe from ∼15,000 years ago. This has also some implications for disease studies. For instance, the high occurrence of H1 and H3 in Iberia led us to re-evaluate the haplogroup distribution in 50 Spanish families affected by nonsyndromic sensorineural deafness due to the A1555G mutation. The survey revealed that the previously reported excess of H among these families is caused entirely by H3 and is due to a major, probably nonrecent, founder event.
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