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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Oct 1, 1991; 88(19): 8568–8571.

Polymorphic sites in the African population detected by sequence analysis of the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase gene outline the evolution of the variants A and A-.


The human X chromosome-linked gene encoding glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD; EC is known to be highly polymorphic from the biochemical characterization of enzyme variants. The variant A (with enzyme activity in the normal range) and the variant A- (associated with enzyme deficiency) each have a frequency of about 0.2 in several African populations. Two restriction fragment length polymorphisms have also been found in people of African descent, but not in other populations, whereas a silent mutation has been shown to be polymorphic in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, African, and Indian populations. We report now on two additional polymorphisms that we have detected by sequence analysis, one in intron 7 and one in intron 8. The analysis of 54 African male subjects for the seven polymorphic sites, clustered within 3 kilobases of the G6PD gene, has revealed only 7 of the 128 possible haplotypes, indicating marked linkage disequilibrium. These data have enabled us to suggest an evolutionary pathway for the different mutations, with only a single ambiguity. The mutation underlying the A variant is the most ancient and the mutation underlying the A- variant is the most recent. Since it seems reasonable that the A- allele is subject to positive selection by malaria, whereas the other alleles are neutral, G6PD may lend itself to the analysis of the role of random genetic drift and selection in determining allele frequencies within a single genetic locus in human populations.

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