Polyomavirus JC Genotypes in an Urban United States Population Reflect the History of African Origin and Genetic Admixture in Modern African Americans

Hum Biol. 2000 Oct;72(5):837-50.


The human polyomavirus JC (JC virus), a small, circular, double-stranded DNA virus, has a worldwide distribution and is excreted harmlessly in urine by 20% to 70% of adults. DNA sequence analysis has identified seven distinct genotypes that likely coevolved with modern humans, although the mode of virus transmission is unknown. Type 1 is European in its distribution. Types 2 and 7 are Asian, while Types 3 and 6 are African. Type 4, closely related to Type 1, is of uncertain origin, having been found in population groups in parts of Europe and in the United States, but not in Africa. Here we have studied the JCV partial genomic DNA sequences amplified by polymerase chain reaction techniques from urines of an urban, mainly African American population cohort from Washington, D.C. The predominant genotype identified was Type 4 (32/78 JCV strains, 41%). Type 1 strain was found in 32% of African Americans, while JCV Type 3 strain was found in 18% of African Americans. These African strains have persisted in modern African Americans after 200 to 400 years of minority existence and genetic admixture in the New World. An ancient West African genotype, Type 6, was absent in this African American cohort. However, one Type 6 strain was found in a patient from Sierra Leone (West Africa), domiciled in the United States for 20 years. Type 2A, the most common subtype in Native Americans, was seen in only two African-Americans (3%). A Type 7 strain, previously reported only in Taiwan and South China, was identified in a Vietnamese immigrant. These data support the history of African origin, migration, and genetic admixture of modern African Americans. Analysis of JCV strains in the present American populations provides a novel tool for reconstructing human migrations and genetic admixture in the New World.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group / genetics*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DNA, Viral / genetics*
  • DNA, Viral / urine
  • District of Columbia
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing
  • Genetic Variation / genetics*
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • JC Virus / classification
  • JC Virus / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*


  • DNA, Viral