Hum Immunol. 2001 Sep;62(9):1009-30.

Analysis of the frequencies of HLA-A, B, and C alleles and haplotypes in the five major ethnic groups of the United States reveals high levels of diversity in these loci and contrasting distribution patterns in these populations.

Cao K, Hollenbach J, Shi X, Shi W, Chopek M, Fernandez-Vina MA.

American Red Cross National Histocompatibility Laboratory, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

The HLA system is the most polymorphic of all human genetic systems. The frequency of HLA class I alleles and their linkage disequilibrium patterns differ significantly among human populations as shown in studies using serologic methods. Many DNA-defined alleles with identical serotypes may have variable frequencies in different populations. We typed HLA-A, B, and C loci at the allele level by PCR-based methods in 1,296 unrelated subjects from five major outbred groups living in the U.S.A (African, AFAM; Caucasians, CAU; Asian, ORI; Hispanic, HIS, and North American Natives, NAI). We detected 46, 100 and 32 HLA-A, B, and C alleles, respectively. ORI and HIS presented more alleles at each of these loci. There was lack of correlation between the levels of heterozygosity and the number of alleles detected in each population. In AFAM, heterozygosity (>90%) is maximized at all class I loci. HLA-A had the lowest heterozygosity in all populations but CAU. Tight LD was observed between HLA-B and C alleles. AFAM had weaker or nonexistent associations between alleles of HLA-A and B than other populations. Analysis of the genetic distances between these and other populations showed a close relationship between specific US populations and a population from their original continents. ORI exhibited the largest genetic distance with all the other U.S. groups and were closer to NAI. Evidence of admixture with CAU was observed for AFAM and HIS. HIS also had significant frequencies of AFAM and Mexican Indian alleles. Differences in both LD and heterozygosity levels suggest distinct evolutionary histories of the HLA loci in the geographical regions from where the U.S. populations originated.