HLA-Cw alleles were determined by high-resolution polymerase chain reaction-sequence-specific oligonucleotide probe (PCR-SSOP) oligotyping in a sample of 165 Mandenka, a population from Eastern Senegal previously analysed for A/B and DRB/DQB polymorphisms. A total of 18 Cw alleles were identified, with Cw*0401/5 and 1601 accounting for a combined frequency of 36%. A comparison of Cw allele frequencies among several populations of different origins, Mandenka, Swiss, English, Ashkenazi Jews from the UK and Japanese, reveals a high genetic heterogeneity among them, but also a much closer relationship between Mandenka, Europeans and Ashkenazi than between any of these populations and Japanese. Cw*0501, Cw*0701 and Cw*1601, among others, appear to be restricted to the European and African populations. Many B-Cw haplotypes exhibit a significant linkage disequilibrium in the Mandenka, among which B*3501-Cw*0401 and B*7801-Cw*1601, formed by the most frequent B and Cw alleles, and B*5201-Cw*1601, B*5702-Cw*18 and B*4410-Cw*0401, not yet observed in other populations. B*3501-Cw*0401 is found with similar frequencies in Europeans. The results possibly support a close historical relationship between Africans and Europeans as compared to East Asiatics. However, the HLA-Cw frequency distributions are characterised by an excess of heterozygotes, indicating that balancing selection may have played a role in the evolution of this polymorphism.
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