Wednesday, June 9, 2010

mtDNA Testing

mtDNA stands for Mitochondrial DNA and is easily remembered as "maternal line DNA." In contrast to autosomal and Y-DNA, Mitochondrial DNA is located outside the cell nucleus. This type of DNA is inherited through the direct maternal line and can be passed down virtually unchanged for thousands of years. Because of this, mtDNA can reveal much about one's maternal line ancient origins. It is passed from mother to daughter, so a woman's mtDNA will be the same as her mother's mother's mother's mother and so on. Males do inherit this DNA from their mothers, but they do not pass it on to their children.

Upon receiving your mtDNA results, you will be assigned a haplogroup based on the mutations that differ from an early sample of European mtDNA known as the Cambridge Reference Sequence (CRS). This assignment groups you with those who share the most similar mtDNA with you, although it may not be exact. For genealogical purposes, an exact match is, by far, the most useful.

There are currently three levels of testing: HRV1, HRV1 & HRV2 and the Full Mitochondrial Sequence (FMS). The FMS is the most comprehensive and highest resolution mtDNA test. It examines all 16,569 locations of the mitochondrial DNA.

For further clarification,  please watch Sorenson's animation on mtDNA.

Further reading: The differences between X Chromosome Testing and mtDNA Testing

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