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Genetics. 2002 Dec;162(4):1849-61.

Nucleotide variability at G6pd and the signature of malarial selection in humans.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA.


Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency is the most common enzymopathy in humans. Deficiency alleles for this X-linked disorder are geographically correlated with historical patterns of malaria, and the most common deficiency allele in Africa (G6PD A-) has been shown to confer some resistance to malaria in both hemizygous males and heterozygous females. We studied DNA sequence variation in 5.1 kb of G6pd from 47 individuals representing a worldwide sample to examine the impact of selection on patterns of human nucleotide diversity and to infer the evolutionary history of the G6PD A- allele. We also sequenced 3.7 kb of a neighboring locus, L1cam, from the same set of individuals to study the effect of selection on patterns of linkage disequilibrium. Despite strong clinical evidence for malarial selection maintaining G6PD deficiency alleles in human populations, the overall level of nucleotide heterozygosity at G6pd is typical of other genes on the X chromosome. However, the signature of selection is evident in the absence of genetic variation among A- alleles from different parts of Africa and in the unusually high levels of linkage disequilibrium over a considerable distance of the X chromosome. In spite of a long-term association between Plasmodium falciparum and the ancestors of modern humans, patterns of nucleotide variability and linkage disequilibrium suggest that the A- allele arose in Africa only within the last 10,000 years and spread due to selection.

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