Distinct diversity of KIR genes in three southern Indian populations: comparison with world populations revealed a link between KIR gene content and pre-historic human migrations

Immunogenetics. 2008 May;60(5):207-17. doi: 10.1007/s00251-008-0286-2. Epub 2008 Mar 28.


By interacting with polymorphic HLA class I molecules, the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) influence the innate and adaptive immune response to infection. The KIR family varies in gene content and sequence polymorphism, thereby, distinguishing individuals and populations. To investigate KIR diversity in the earliest settlers of India, we have characterized the KIR gene content in three Dravidian-speaking populations (Mollukurumba, Kanikar, and Paravar) from the state of Tamil Nadu, southern India. The activating KIR genes and putative group-B KIR haplotypes were frequent in Paravar and Kanikar, a scenario analogous to those seen previously in other populations of Indian origin, indicating that predominance of group-B KIR haplotypes is the characteristic feature of Indian populations. In contrast, the KIR gene profile of Mollukurumba was more related to Caucasian type. It is not clear whether a local-specific selection or a recent admixture from Iran is responsible for such discrete profile in Mollukurumba. Each southern Indian population had distinct KIR genotype profile. Comparative analyses with world populations revealed that group-B KIR haplotypes were frequent in the natives of India, Australia, and America, the populations associated with those involved in extensive prehistoric human migrations. Whether or not natural selection has acted to enrich group-B KIR haplotypes in these migratory descendants is an issue that requires objective testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Continental Population Groups / genetics*
  • Gene Frequency*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • India
  • Receptors, KIR / genetics*


  • Receptors, KIR