Mapping the HLA diversity of the Iberian Peninsula

Hum Immunol. 2016 Oct;77(10):832-840. doi: 10.1016/j.humimm.2016.06.023. Epub 2016 Jul 1.


The polymorphism of HLA genes can be used to reconstruct human peopling history. However, this huge diversity impairs successful matching in stem cell transplantation, a situation which has led to the recruitment of millions of donors worldwide. In parallel to the increase of recruitment, registries are progressively relying on information from population genetics to optimize their donor pools in terms of HLA variability. In this study, the HLA data of 65,000 Spanish bone marrow donors were analyzed together with 60,000 Portuguese individuals to provide a comprehensive HLA genetic map of the Iberian Peninsula. The frequencies of many alleles were shown to vary continuously across the Peninsula, either increasing or decreasing from the Mediterranean coast to the Atlantic domain or from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Pyrenees and Bay of Biscay. Similar patterns were observed for several haplotypes. In addition, within some regions neighboring provinces share a close genetic similarity. These results outline the genetic landscape of the Iberian Peninsula, and confirm that the analysis of the HLA polymorphism may reveal relevant signatures of past demographic events even when data from donor registries are used. This conclusion stimulates future developments of the Spanish registry, presented here for the first time.

Keywords: Bone marrow donors; Frequencies; HLA; Haplotypes; Human genetic diversity; Iberian Peninsula; Linkage disequilibrium; Portugal; Registry; Spain.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Frequency
  • Genotype
  • HLA Antigens / genetics*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Histocompatibility Testing
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Registries*
  • Spain
  • Tissue Donors*


  • HLA Antigens