Evolution of Pacific/Asian populations inferred from HLA class II allele frequency distributions

Tissue Antigens. 2000 May;55(5):383-400. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0039.2000.550501.x.


The allele frequency distributions for the HLA class II loci, DRB1, DQB1 and DPB1, in eight Pacific/Asian populations: Hawaiian, Samoan, Malay, Papua New Guinea (PNG) Highlands, and two Indonesian and PNG Lowland groups, were determined using high-resolution polymerase chain reaction/sequence-specific oligonucleotide probe (PCR/SSOP) typing methods. The allele frequency distributions for the HLA-DRB1 locus were determined for a third Indonesian population as well as for an additional Filipino population. DRB1 alleles in the DR2 serogroup (or allelic lineage) are very common in this region; in some populations, more than 50% of the alleles belong to this serogroup. The DRB1*1502 allele is frequent in nine of the ten populations studied, reaching a frequency of 0.48 in one Indonesian population and among Filipinos. Extensive DR-DQ haplotype diversity was detected in these populations. Seven different DR2-DQB1 haplotypes were observed in the Indonesian and PNG Lowland populations, eight in the PNG Highlands and ten in Malays and Filipinos. The DRB1*0410 allele, commonly observed in Australia, is observed in the PNG Highlands at a low frequency (f=0.03) and is absent in the other populations. Two additional DRB1 alleles commonly observed in Australia, DRB1*0405 and *1407, are also observed in the PNG Highlands at high frequencies (f=0.132 and 0.126), while they are rare in the PNG Lowlands (f=0.039 and 0.013). These alleles are generally rare or absent in the other populations. The DPB1*0501 allele, common in Chinese and Japanese populations, is most frequent in the Samoan, Hawaiian, Indonesian, and Malay populations, and the *0401 allele is the most frequent DPB1 allele in the PNG Lowlands. Both of these alleles have the same very high frequency (f=0.34) in the PNG Highlands. Analyses of homozygosity (the Ewens-Watterson F statistic) in these and other populations indicate that, while most allele frequency distributions are consistent with balancing selection, values of F for the Indonesian and Javan populations may reflect positive directional selection. Phylogenetic trees constructed using the allele frequencies at the DRB1 locus of the populations reported here, as well as those for additional Pacific, Asian, and Australian populations, indicate that the PNG Highland population is more closely related to Australian populations than to PNG Lowland populations, while the PNG Lowlands are more closely related to other Melanesian populations.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Asia
  • Asians / genetics*
  • Gene Frequency*
  • Genetic Variation
  • HLA-D Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA-DP Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-DP beta-Chains
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-DQ beta-Chains
  • HLA-DR Antigens / genetics
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains
  • Haplotypes
  • Hawaii
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Pacific Islands
  • Phylogeny*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • HLA-D Antigens
  • HLA-DP Antigens
  • HLA-DP beta-Chains
  • HLA-DPB1 antigen
  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • HLA-DQ beta-Chains
  • HLA-DQB1 antigen
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • HLA-DRB1 Chains