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Alu elements are transposable elements that have reached over one million copies in the human genome. Some Alu elements inserted in the genome so recently that they are still polymorphic for insertion presence or absence in human populations. Recently, there has been an increasing interest in using Alu variation for studies of human population genetic structure and inference of individual geographic origin. Currently, this requires a high number of Alu loci. Here, we used a linker-mediated polymerase chain reaction method to preferentially identify low-frequency Alu elements in various human DNA samples with different geographic origins. The candidate Alu loci were subsequently genotyped in 18 worldwide human populations (∼370 individuals), resulting in the identification of two new Alu insertions restricted to populations of African ancestry. Our results suggest that it may ultimately become possible to correctly infer the geographic affiliation of unknown samples with high levels of confidence without having to genotype as many as 100 Alu loci. This is desirable if Alu insertion polymorphisms are to be used for human evolution studies or forensic applications. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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