Characterization of genetic variation and natural selection at the arylamine N-acetyltransferase genes in global human populations

Pharmacogenomics. 2011 Nov;12(11):1545-58. doi: 10.2217/pgs.11.88. Epub 2011 Oct 13.


Functional variability at the arylamine N-acetyltransferase genes is associated with drug response in humans and may have been adaptive in the past owing to selection pressure from diet and exposure to toxins during human evolution.

Aims: We have characterized nucleotide variation at the NAT1 and NAT2 genes, and at the NATP1 pseudogene in global human populations, including many previously under-represented African populations, in order to identify potential functional variants and to understand the role that natural selection has played in shaping variation at these loci in globally diverse populations.

Materials & methods: We have resequenced approximately 2800 bp for each of the NAT1 and NAT2 gene regions, as well as the pseudogene NATP1, in 197 African and 132 nonAfrican individuals.

Results & conclusion: We observe a signature of balancing selection maintaining variation in the 3'-UTR of NAT1, suggesting that these variants may play a functional role that is currently undefined. In addition, we observed high levels of nonsynonymous functional variation at the NAT2 locus that differs amongst ethnically diverse populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3' Untranslated Regions / genetics
  • Africa
  • Americas
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / genetics*
  • Asia
  • Europe
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics*
  • Middle East
  • Phenotype
  • Population / genetics*
  • Pseudogenes / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism


  • 3' Untranslated Regions
  • Isoenzymes
  • Xenobiotics
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • N-acetyltransferase 1
  • NAT2 protein, human