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Science. 2003 Apr 25;300(5619):640-3. Epub 2003 Apr 10.

Balancing selection at the prion protein gene consistent with prehistoric kurulike epidemics.

Author information

1
Medical Research Council Prion Unit, and Department of Neurodegenerative Disease, Institute of Neurology, University College, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.

Abstract

Kuru is an acquired prion disease largely restricted to the Fore linguistic group of the Papua New Guinea Highlands, which was transmitted during endocannibalistic feasts. Heterozygosity for a common polymorphism in the human prion protein gene (PRNP) confers relative resistance to prion diseases. Elderly survivors of the kuru epidemic, who had multiple exposures at mortuary feasts, are, in marked contrast to younger unexposed Fore, predominantly PRNP 129 heterozygotes. Kuru imposed strong balancing selection on the Fore, essentially eliminating PRNP 129 homozygotes. Worldwide PRNP haplotype diversity and coding allele frequencies suggest that strong balancing selection at this locus occurred during the evolution of modern humans.

PMID:
12690204
DOI:
10.1126/science.1083320
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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