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Keywords:

  • Alu;
  • dimorphism;
  • haplotypes;
  • hitchhiking;
  • HLA class I alleles;
  • major histocompatibility complex;
  • polymorphism

We investigated structurally polymorphic Alu insertions (POALINs) at five loci in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I genomic region to determine their allele and haplotype frequencies and associations with the human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A, -B, and -C genes in three populations, the Australian Caucasians, Japanese, and African Americans. The POALINs varied in allelic frequency between 0% and 42.3% with significant differences between populations at three of the five loci. The linkage disequilibrium (LD) between Alu insertions and the HLA-A, -B, or -C alleles and previously published polymorphic retroelements (four SVA and human endogenous retrovirus type 9 (HERVK9) loci) within the class I region of the MHC were calculated in pairwise analyses of haplotypes to show strong allelic associations and possible crossing-over events between some loci. Each POALIN was in significant LD with a variety of HLA-A, -B, or -C two-digit alleles probably as a result of hitchhiking. The POALINs helped to further stratify the HLA-A:B:C haplotypes into different POALIN:HLA-A:B:C haplotype frequencies. Of the multilocus haplotype analyses, the seven- and eight-locus haplotypes showed the largest number of differences between the populations, and fewer matched haplotypes between populations that ranged, for example, from 49% for HLA-B:HLA-A haplotypes to 7% for AluMICB:HLA-B:HLA-C:AluTF:AluHJ:HLA-A:AluHG:AluTF haplotypes in the Japanese. This comparative study of multilocus POALINs in the HLA class I region of three ethnic populations shows that POALINs alone or together with the HLA class I alleles and other retroelements are informative ancestral markers for assessing the interrelationship of HLA class I haplotype lineages, LD, and genetic diversity within the same and/or different populations.