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Genes Immun. 2002 Apr;3(2):86-95.

Natural killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) locus profiles in African and South Asian populations.

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  • 1South Thames Tissue Typing, Guy's Hospital, London, UK.


Natural killer (NK) and some T cells express killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs), which interact with HLA class I expressed by target cells and consequently regulate cytolytic activity. The number of KIR loci can vary and so a range of genetic profiles is observed. We have determined the KIR genetic profiles from one African (n = 62) and two South Asian (n = 108, n = 78) populations. Several of the KIRs are present at significantly different frequencies between the two major ethnic groups (eg KIR2DS4 gene frequency 0.82 African, 0.47 S Asian. Pc < 1 x 10(-6)) and this is due to uneven distribution of two KIR haplotype families 'A' and 'B'. All three populations described here displayed a greater degree of diversity of KIR genetic profiles than other populations investigated, which indicates further complexity of underlying haplotypes; in this respect we describe two individuals who appear homozygous for a large deletion including the previously ubiquitous 2DL4. We have also reanalysed three populations that we studied previously, for the presence of a KIR which is now known to be an indicator of the 'B' haplotype. South Asians had the highest overall frequencies of all KIR loci characteristic of 'B' haplotypes (Pc < 0.0001 to < 0.004). Furthermore, gene frequency independent deviances in the linkage disequilibrium were apparent between populations.

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