Detection of the CCR5-Delta32 HIV resistance gene in Bronze Age skeletons

Genes Immun. 2005 Jun;6(4):371-4. doi: 10.1038/sj.gene.6364172.


A mutant allele of the chemokine receptor CCR5 gene (CCR5-Delta32), which confers resistance to HIV-1 infection, is believed to have originated from a single mutation event in historic times, and rapidly expanded in Caucasian populations, owing to an unknown selective advantage. Among other candidates, the plague bacillus Yersinia pestis was implicated as a potential source of strong selective pressure on European populations during medieval times. Here, we report amplifications of the CCR5-Delta32 DNA sequence from up to 2900-year-old skeletal remains from different burial sites in central Germany and southern Italy. Furthermore, the allele frequency of CCR5-Delta32 in victims of the 14th century plague pandemic in Lubeck/northern Germany was not different from a historic control group. Our findings indicate that this mutation was prevalent already among prehistoric Europeans. The results also argue against the possibility of plague representing a major selective force that caused rapid increase in CCR5-Delta32 gene frequencies within these populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Gene Frequency / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetics, Population
  • HIV Infections / genetics*
  • HIV*
  • Humans
  • Plague / genetics
  • Receptors, CCR5 / genetics*
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sequence Deletion / genetics*


  • Receptors, CCR5