The association between a geographical region and an mtDNA haplogroup(s) has provided the basis for using mtDNA haplogroups to infer an individual's place of origin and genetic ancestry. Although it is well known that ancestry inferences using mtDNA haplogroups and those using genome-wide markers are frequently discrepant, little empirical information exists on the magnitude and scope of such discrepancies between multiple mtDNA haplogroups and worldwide populations. We compared genetic-ancestry inferences made by mtDNA-haplogroup membership to those made by autosomal SNPs in ∼940 samples of the Human Genome Diversity Panel and recently admixed populations from the 1000 Genomes Project. Continental-ancestry proportions often varied widely among individuals sharing the same mtDNA haplogroup. For only half of mtDNA haplogroups did the highest average continental-ancestry proportion match the highest continental-ancestry proportion of a majority of individuals with that haplogroup. Prediction of an individual's mtDNA haplogroup from his or her continental-ancestry proportions was often incorrect. Collectively, these results indicate that for most individuals in the worldwide populations sampled, mtDNA-haplogroup membership provides limited information about either continental ancestry or continental region of origin.
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