Genetic diversity of KIR natural killer cell markers in populations from France, Guadeloupe, Finland, Senegal and Réunion


*Dr Jean-Denis Bignon, PhD
HLA laboratory
EFS Pays de Loire
34 Bd Jean Monnet
44011 Nantes
Tel: 33 2 40 12 33 00
Fax: 33 2 40 12 33 33


Killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) belong to a diverse family of natural killer (NK) cell receptors recognizing human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules. Due to this functional link, KIR molecules are expected to display a high polymorphism, such as their HLA ligands. Moreover, many studies conducted in mouse and human models have shown that NK-KIR receptors play an important role in haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). A beneficial impact of peculiar KIR ligand (HLA) mismatching has been reported suggesting a role to this combinatory HLA-KIR polymorphism. It is thus important to investigate KIR diversity in various human populations. To this end, we used polymerase chain reaction-sequence-specific primers to evaluate KIR gene in five selected populations (France, Guadeloupe, Senegal, Finland and Réunion). Genotypic and haplotypic frequencies were computed, as well as genetic distances and dendrogram (phylip package). These data illustrate the genetic relationship of these five populations through the KIR polymorphism. Results revealed a wide diversity in KIR gene frequencies in Guadeloupe and Réunion, and a high specificity in Senegal. The obtained dendrogram indicated small genetic distances between France, Guadeloupe and Réunion as well as between France and Finland. Senegal showed a distant genetic relationship with the other countries and, interestingly, an inverted ratio of coding/non-coding (KIR2DS4/1D) alleles compared with Caucasians. These data expose the broad diversity in KIR genes worldwide and show that KIR genes are pertinent tools in human population genetics. If the role of KIR donor–recipient incompatibilities is confirmed, KIR diversity according to ethnicity should be taken into account during the selection of HSCT donors.