We have analyzed the allele frequency distribution at the highly polymorphic variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) locus D1S80 (pMCT118) in seven ethnic populations (namely, New Guinea Highlanders of Papua New Guinea, Dogrib Indians of Canada, Pehuenche Indians of Chile, American and Western Samoans, Kacharis of Northeast India, and German Caucasians) using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. In the pooled sample of 443 unrelated individuals 20 segregating alleles were detected. A trimodal pattern of allelic distribution is present in the majority of populations and is indicative of the evolutionary antiquity of the polymorphism at this locus. In spite of the observed high degree of polymorphism (expected heterozygosity 56%-86%), with a single exception--the marginally significant P value (0.04) of the exact test in American Samoans--the genotype distributions in all populations conform to their respective Hardy-Weinberg expectations. Summary statistics indicate that, in general, the allele frequency distribution at this locus may be approximated by the infinite allele model. The data also demonstrate that alleles that are shared by all populations have the highest average frequency within populations. Furthermore, the kinship bioassay analysis demonstrates that the extensive variation observed at the D1S80 locus is at the interindividual within population level, which dwarfs any interpopulation allele frequency variation, consistent with the population dynamics of hypervariable polymorphisms. These characteristics of the D1S80 locus make it a very useful marker for population genetic research, genetic linkage studies, forensic identification of individuals, and for determination of biological relatedness of individuals.