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Hum Mutat. 1995;5(4):310-7.

African, Native American, and European mitochondrial DNAs in Cubans from Pinar del Rio Province and implications for the recent epidemic neuropathy in Cuba. Cuba Neuropathy Field Investigation Team.

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Department of Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA.


Genetic predisposition, particularly specific mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) backgrounds, has been proposed as a contributing factor in the expression of an epidemic of bilateral optic neuropathy that has affected residents of Cuba since 1991. To substantiate or refute the possibility that specific subsets of mtDNAs could participate in disease expression, we took advantage of the heterogeneous ethnic origin of the Cuban population and the recent identification of a number of mtDNA polymorphisms that appear to be specific for Africans, Native Americans, and Europeans. The screening of both carefully selected people with epidemic neuropathy and control subjects from the Pinar del Rio Province for these polymorphisms revealed that African, Native American, and European mtDNA haplotypes were equally represented among case and control subjects, and suggested that approximately 50% of Cuban mtDNAs originated from Europeans, 46% from Africans, and 4% from Native Americans. These findings demonstrate that mutations arising in specific mtDNAs are unlikely to play a role in the epidemic neuropathy and indicate that analysis of mtDNA haplotypes can be a valuable tool for assessing the relative maternal contribution of Africans, Native Americans, and Europeans in a mixed population.

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