This study investigates the influence of different evolutionary factors on the patterns of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genetic diversity within sub-Saharan Africa, and between Africa, Europe, and East Asia. This is done by comparing the significance of several statistics computed on equivalent population data sets tested for two HLA class II loci, DRB1 and DPB1, which strongly differ from each other by the shape of their allelic distributions. Similar results are found for the two loci concerning highly significant correlations between geographic and genetic distances at the world scale, high levels of genetic diversity within sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, and low within Europe, and low genetic differentiations among the three broad continental areas, with no special divergence of Africa. On the other hand, DPB1 behaves as a neutral polymorphism, although a significant excess of heterozygotes is often observed for DRB1. Whereas the pattern observed for DPB1 is explained by geographic differentiations and genetic drift in isolated populations, balancing selection is likely to have prevented genetic differentiations among populations at the DRB1 locus. However, this selective effect did not disrupt the high correlation found between DRB1 and geography at the world scale, nor between DRB1 and linguistic differentiations at the African level.
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