Genetic variability in autochthonous Basques from Guipuzcoa: a view from MHC microsatellites.
Five short tandem repeats (STRs) located at human chromosome 6 were analysed in 97 autochthonous Basques from Guipuzcoa (northern Spain), with the aim of assessing the genetic relationships of Basques at a European scale, based on the variability of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region, and comparing the phylogenetic information obtained from STRs, and from HLA class I genes (HLA-A and HLA-B) for the same set of European populations. The integrative approach was focused on D6S265 and D6S2792, according to availability of population databases. F(ST) genetic distances obtained from STRs and from HLA loci were very similar, thereby describing a comparable pattern of genetic structuring among the European populations. These findings were supported by results of the Mantel test of matrix correspondence (r = 0.796, P = 0.0022) and by significant correlations between the first two F(ST) eigenvectors of STRs and HLA genes. Coinciding with previous phylogenetic studies, Basques showed substantial genetic differentiation within the European context, probably as a result of the impact of random genetic drift and high inbreeding levels for extended periods of isolation even from adjacent populations. Analysis of the geographical distribution of the allele frequencies revealed a great number of latitudinal frequency clines in both the MHC STRs and the HLA class I genes, which supports the notion of the post-glacial resettlement of Europe being a crucial factor in the genetic make-up of Europeans. Our results indicate that analysing the genetic variability of MHC microsatellites could be a suitable strategy in evaluating the role of evolutionary forces such as natural selection (because of genetic hitchhiking effect), genetic drift and gene flow in the maintenance of polymorphism at the MHC region, because STRs can efficiently complement the genetic information obtained from HLA genes.
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