Exploring Indian genetic heritage in the present-

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New genetic analysis reveals new insights into the genetic makeup of people living in Thailand today, suggesting the potential importance of past migrations in spreading Indian culture in the region. Piya Changmai of the University of Ostrava, Czech Republic, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS genetics February 17and.

Mainland Southeast Asia has a complex demographic history and includes hundreds of indigenous languages ​​from five different major language families. During the first millennium of the common era – after the start of trade with India – Indian culture influenced the establishment of the first states in the region, and this cultural influence remains evident today. However, few studies have adequately explored the extent of evidence for earlier admixture of South Asian genetic lineages in present-day Southeast Asian populations.

To provide a clearer picture of such genetic mixing, Changmai and his colleagues conducted a genetic analysis of current people from 10 ethnic groups in Thailand. The study focused on genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), a type of variation found in distinct DNA sequences from different individuals that can be associated with different genetic lineages. The researchers combined SNP data from 119 current individuals with previously published genetic data from relevant populations and analyzed the dataset using various genetic methods.

The different methods yielded consistent results, finding evidence of South Asian genetic admixture in several different mainland Southeast Asian populations that are known to have been influenced by Indian culture in the past. However, evidence for South Asian admixture was lacking for Southeast Asian populations who had only just emerged from cultural isolation. These results suggest the potential importance of past Indian migrations in the spread of Indian culture in this region.

The researchers also found evidence of close genetic links between people who speak languages ​​from the Kra-Dai language family and people who speak languages ​​from the Austronesian language family, supporting an earlier linguistic hypothesis that the two families languages ​​could share a common origin.

Changmai adds, “The Indian genetic heritage in Southeast Asian populations suggests multiple waves of migrations from India to Southeast Asia in the past, which may have been responsible for the spread of Indian culture in the region”.


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Quote: Changmai P, Jaisamut K, Kampuansai J, Kutanan W, Altınışık NE, Flegontova O, et al. (2022) Indian Genetic Heritage in Southeast Asian Populations. PLoS Genet 18(2): e1010036. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1010036

Author countries: Czech Republic, Thailand, Hungary, United States, Russia

Funding: This work was supported by the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports: 1) Inter-Excellence program, project #LTAUSA18153; 2) Major Research, Experimental Development and Innovation Infrastructure Project “IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center – LM2015070”. EY, OF, PC and PF were also supported by the Institutional Development Program of the University of Ostrava (IRP201825). JK acknowledges the partial support provided by Chiang Mai University, Thailand. PF was also supported by a grant from the Russian federal budget (project no. 075-15-2019-1879 “From paleogenetics to cultural anthropology: a comprehensive interdisciplinary study of the traditions of peoples of cross-border regions: migration, intercultural interaction and world Vision “). DR was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIGMS GM100233), the John Templeton Foundation (Grant 61220), and the Allen Discovery Center Program, a program advised by Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation; DR is also a researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

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