• diabetes;
  • ethnic origin;
  • HFE;
  • liver diseases;
  • polymorphism

Abstract:Background/Aims: The C282Y mutation in the haemochromatosis gene (HFE) located on chromosome 6 has been identified as the main genetic basis of hereditary haemochromatosis (HH). Two more mutations of that gene, H63D and S65C, appear to be associated with milder forms of HH. A high allele frequency for C282Y and H63D mutations was reported in populations from North Europe, while incomplete information is available for individuals from the Mediterranean Basin where C282Y homozygotes comprise a smaller percentage of HH cases. In this study we investigated the allele frequency of HFE mutations and the association between HFE mutations and cases of HH in a population from the South of Italy (Sicily and Calabria). In addition, we evaluated a possible association between HFE mutations and either chronic liver disease or type II diabetes. Patients and Methods: Three hundred and twenty-seven individuals (654 chromosomes) were tested for C282Y, H63D and S65C mutations of the HFE gene by restriction fragment length polymorphism. Four had HH, 23 had hepatocellular carcinoma, 100 had chronic liver disease, 100 had type II diabetes, and 100 were healthy controls. Results: Both C282Y and S65C mutations were each detected in one of the 654 chromosomes analysed (allele frequency=0.15%), while H63D change was found in 122 chromosomes (allele frequency=18.6%) and was equally distributed in all the categories examined. One healthy individual had compound heterozygosity for C282Y and H63D mutations. The frequency of C282Y in this Southern Italian sample was the lowest yet reported for a population of European origin. None of the four HH patients was either homozygous or heterozygous for C282Y. Conclusions: In Mediterranean populations from Southern Italy the C282Y mutation occurs sporadically and HFE polymorphisms seem to have little diagnostic relevance.