Tissue Antigens

Volume 58 Issue 4 Page 223 - October 2001

The HLA class I and class II allele frequencies studied at the DNA level in the Svanetian population (Upper Caucasus) and their relationships to Western European populations

Author's affiliation= P. Sánchez-Velasco, F. Leyva-Cobián


The Caucasus and the Iberian peninsula have been connected from a linguistic (Basque and Kvartelian languages), toponimic and historic perspectives. They also represent places (e.g. Dmanisi in Georgia and Atapuerca in Northern Spain) where the oldest hominoid remains in Europe are being discovered and studied. These circumstances prompted us to study the genetic background of the Svans (living on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus in the Republic of Georgia) in comparison with Basques from the semi-isolated Arratia valley as well with other Northern Spanish and Western European populations. DRB1*1101-DQA1*0501-DQB1*0301 and DRB1*1301-DQA1*0103-DQB1*0603 haplotypes were found in Svans at the highest frequency. The second most frequent three-locus haplotypes in this population were DRB1*0701-DQA1*0201-DQB1*0201 and DRB1*1301-DQA1*0103-DQB1*0602.

Furthermore, the following 5-locus extended haplotypes were not found in other populations: A3-B8-DRB1*11-DQA1*0501-DQB1*0301, A2-B8-DRB1*13-DQA1*0103-DQB1*0603, A2-B40-DRB1*14-DQA1*0104-DQB1*0501, A2-B51-DRB1*08-DQA1*0401-DQB1*0402, A3-B7-DRB1*03-DQA1*0501-DQB1*0201 and A24-B39-DRB1*08-DQA1*0401-DQB1*0402.

Other haplotypes present in Svans were also frequently observed in Northern Spain and in other Western European countries. However, haplotypes reported as characteristic for Basques were not found in the Svans. A dendrogram using HLA class II alleles places the closest genetic distance observed between Svans and Czechs, whereas Slovenes and other Mediterranean populations (Jews, Hungarians, Frenchmen, Sardinians and Greeks) have the greatest genetic distance.

When both HLA class I and class II alleles from 17 populations were compared, the smallest genetic distances were with Rumanians, Czechs and Armenians. Northern Spanish populations were placed closer to each other and clearly separated from Svans. In conclusion, the Svan population shows considerable polymorphism. These observations suggest a mixture of alleles in Svans from geographically distinct areas, and probably do not support a common ancestor for these Caucasian inhabitants and people from Northern Spain.