Several features make Alu insertions a powerful tool used in population genetic studies: the polymorphic nature of many Alu insertions, the stability of an Alu insertion event and, furthermore, the ancestral state of an Alu insertion is known to be the absence of the Alu element at a particular locus and the presence of an Alu insertion at the site that forward mutational change. This study analyses seven Alu insertion polymorphisms in a sample of 297 individuals from the autochthonous population of Tunisia (Thala, Smar, Zarzis, and Bou Salem) and Libya with the aim of studying their genetic structure with respect to the populations of North Africa, Western, Eastern and Central Europe. The comparative analyses carried out using the MDS and AMOVA methods reveal the existence of spatial heterogeneity, and identify four population groups. Study populations (Libya, Smar, Zarzis, and Bou Salem) are closest to North African populations whereas Thala is isolated and is closest to Western European populations.
In conclusion, Results of the present study support the important role that migratory movements have played in the North African gene pool, at least since the Neolithic period.