Molecular variation at the HLA-A, B, C, DRB1, DQA1, and DQB1 loci in full heritage American Indians in Arizona: private haplotypes and their evolution


Robert Williams
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Diabetes Epidemiology and Clinical Research Section 1550 E. Indian School Road
Tel: +1 602 615 5040
Fax: +1 602 200 5225


A sample of 492 full heritage, unrelated residents of the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) of Arizona were characterized for their high-resolution DNA alleles at the HLA-A, B, C, DRB1, DQA1, and DQB1 loci. Only five allelic categories are found at HLA-A, 10 at HLA-B, 8 at HLA-C and HLA-DR, and 4 at DQA1 and DQB1. There is little evidence for population structure at the 6 loci. Two ‘private’ alleles, B*5102 and B*4005, which are found nearly exclusively in American Indian populations in the desert southwest and northern Mexico, are likely new mutations after the first inhabitation of the area, the evolution of which are reflected in the contemporary distribution of their respective haplotypes. DRB1*1402 has the highest reported frequency of any specificity at the DRB1 locus, 0.7461, and serves as a sensitive probe for locating related east Asian populations. The haplotypes in this population also exhibit a highly restricted distribution and strong genetic disequilibria, which has important implications for matching solid organ and bone marrow allografts. It is shown that, when one considers HLA-A-B-DRB1 homozygotes as allograft donors for all full heritage members of the GRIC, 50% of the community would find a non-mismatched organ within the homozygotes for the six most common haplotypes. This raises questions about transplantation policy and whether, in the presence of high-frequency private alleles and a restricted number of haplotypes, the full heritage American Indian community of the desert southwest should act as its own pool of donors for its affected members.