HLA class II loci are useful markers in human population genetics, because they are extremely variable and because new molecular techniques allow large-scale analysis of DNA allele frequencies. Direct DNA typing by hybridization with sequence-specific oligonucleotide probes (HLA oligotyping) after enzymatic in vitro PCR amplification detects HLA allelic polymorphisms for all class II loci. A detailed HLA-DR oligotyping analysis of 191 individuals from a geographically, culturally, and genetically well-defined western African population, the Mandenkalu, reveals a high degree of polymorphism, with at least 24 alleles and a heterozygosity level of .884 for the DRB1 locus. The allele DRB1*1304, defined by DNA sequencing of the DRB1 first-domain exon, is the most frequent allele (27.1%). It accounts for an unusually high DR13 frequency, which is nevertheless within the neutral frequency range. The next most frequent specificities are DR11, DR3, and DR8. Among DRB3-encoded alleles, DR52b (DRB3*02) represents as much as 80.7% of all DR52 haplotypes. A survey of HLA-DR specificities in populations from different continents shows a significant positive correlation between genetic and geographic differentiation patterns. A homozygosity test for selective neutrality of DR specificities is not significant for the Mandenka population but is rejected for 20 of 24 populations. Observed high heterozygosity levels in tested populations are compatible with an overdominant model with a small selective advantage for heterozygotes.