HLA Class I and Class II Alleles and Haplotypes Confirm the Berber Origin of the Present Day Tunisian Population.

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HLA Class I and Class II Alleles and Haplotypes Confirm the Berber Origin of the Present Day Tunisian Population.

PLoS One. 2015;10(8):e0136909

Authors: Hajjej A, Almawi WY, Hattab L, El-Gaaied A, Hmida S

Abstract
In view of its distinct geographical location and relatively small area, Tunisia witnessed the presence of many civilizations and ethnic groups throughout history, thereby questioning the origin of present-day Tunisian population. We investigated HLA class I and class II gene profiles in Tunisians, and compared this profile with those of Mediterranean and Sub-Sahara African populations. A total of 376 unrelated Tunisian individuals of both genders were genotyped for HLA class I (A, B) and class II (DRB1, DQB1), using reverse dot-blot hybridization (PCR-SSO) method. Statistical analysis was performed using Arlequin software. Phylogenetic trees were constructed by DISPAN software, and correspondence analysis was carried out by VISTA software. One hundred fifty-three HLA alleles were identified in the studied sample, which comprised 41, 50, 40 and 22 alleles at HLA-A,-B,-DRB1 and -DQB1 loci, respectively. The most frequent alleles were HLA-A*02:01 (16.76%), HLA-B*44:02/03 (17.82%), HLA-DRB1*07:01 (19.02%), and HLA-DQB1*03:01 (17.95%). Four-locus haplotype analysis identified HLA-A*02:01-B*50:01-DRB1*07:01-DQB1*02:02 (2.2%) as the common haplotype in Tunisians. Compared to other nearby populations, Tunisians appear to be genetically related to Western Mediterranean population, in particular North Africans and Berbers. In conclusion, HLA genotype results indicate that Tunisians are related to present-day North Africans, Berbers and to Iberians, but not to Eastern Arabs (Palestinians, Jordanians and Lebanese). This suggests that the genetic contribution of Arab invasion of 7th-11th century A.D. had little impact of the North African gene pool.

PMID: 26317228 [PubMed - in process]