Local adaptation and population differentiation at the interleukin 13 and interleukin 4 loci

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Abstract

A 25.6 kb region at chromosome 5q31, covering the entire human interleukin 13 (IL-13) and interleukin 4 (IL-4) genes, has been reported to be associated with bronchial asthma. We have examined nucleotide variations at this locus in African, European American, and Japanese populations, using 120 diallelic variants. A block of strong linkage disequilibrium (LD) (|D′|>0.7) spans a 10 kb region containing IL-4 in European American and Japanese populations, and is present but less clear in African samples. Two major haplotypes at IL-4 account for >80% of haplotypes in European Americans and Japanese. These haplotypes are common and quite diverged from each other and the ancestral haplotype, resulting in highly significant deviations from neutrality. FST statistics show that European American and Japanese populations are unusually distinct at the IL-4 locus. The most common haplotype in the European American population is much less common in the Japanese population, and vice versa. This implies that natural selection has acted on IL-4 haplotypes differently in different populations. This selected variation at IL-4 may account for some genetic variance underlying susceptibility to asthma and other allergic diseases. The strong LD observed in the IL-4 region may allow more efficient disease-association studies using this locus.

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