BACKGROUND: HanChinese, Japanese and Korean, the three major ethnic groups of East Asia, share many similarities in appearance, language and culture etc., but their genetic relationships, divergence times and subsequent genetic exchanges have not been well studied.
RESULTS: We conducted a genome-wide study and evaluated the populationstructure of 182 HanChinese, 90 Japanese and 100 Korean individuals, together with the data of 630 individuals representing 8 populations wordwide. Our analyses revealed that HanChinese, Japanese and Koreanpopulations have distinct genetic makeup and can be well distinguished based on either the genome wide data or a panel of ancestry informative markers (AIMs). Their genetic structure corresponds well to their geographical distributions, indicating geographical isolation played a critical role in driving population differentiation in East Asia. The most recent common ancestor of the three populations was dated back to 3000 ~ 3600 years ago. Our analyses also revealed substantial admixture within the three populationswhich occurred subsequent to initial splits, and distinct gene introgression from surrounding populations, of which northern ancestral component is dominant.
CONCLUSIONS: These estimations and findings facilitate to understanding population history and mechanism of human genetic diversity in East Asia, and have implications for both evolutionary and medical studies.