staff

Jose Manuel De Abreu Nunes

Lecturer in Anthropology & Immunogenetics

  • T: +41 22 379 36 83
  • office 4-410 (Sciences II)
  • Correction to: HLA class I molecular variation and peptide-binding properties suggest a model of joint divergent asymmetric selection. Immunogenetics 2017 Nov;():. 10.1007/s00251-017-1045-z. 10.1007/s00251-017-1045-z.

    abstract

    The original version of this article, unfortunately, contained an error.

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  • The HLA-B landscape of Africa: signatures of pathogen-driven selection and molecular identification of candidate alleles to malaria protection. Mol. Ecol. 2017 Sep;():. 10.1111/mec.14366.

    abstract

    Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes play a key role in the immune response to infectious diseases, some of which are highly prevalent in specific environments, like malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. Former case-control studies showed that one particular HLA-B allele, B*53, was associated to malaria protection in Gambia, but this hypothesis was not tested so far within a population genetics framework. In this study, our objective was to assess whether pathogen-driven selection associated to malaria contributed to shape the HLA-B genetic landscape of Africa. To that aim, we first typed the HLA-A and -B loci in 484 individuals from 11 populations living in different environments across the Sahel, and we analysed these data together with those available for 29 other populations by using several approaches including linear modelling on various genetic, geographic and environmental parameters. In addition to relevant signatures of populations' demography and migrations history in the genetic differentiation patterns of both HLA-A and -B loci, we found that the frequencies of three HLA alleles, B*53, B*78 and A*74, were significantly associated to Plasmodium falciparum malaria prevalence, suggesting their increase through pathogen-driven selection in malaria-endemic environments. The two HLA-B alleles were further identified, by high-throughput sequencing, as B*53:01:01 (in putative linkage disequilibrium with one HLA-C allele, C*04:01:01:01) and B*78:01 in all but one individuals tested, making them appropriate candidates to malaria protection. These results highlight the role of environmental factors in the evolution of the HLA polymorphism and open key perspectives for functional studies focusing on HLA peptide-binding properties. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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  • Fluorescence circadian imaging reveals a PDF-dependent transcriptional regulation of the Drosophila molecular clock. Sci Rep 2017 Jan;7():41560. srep41560. 10.1038/srep41560. PMC5278502.

    abstract

    Circadian locomotor behaviour is controlled by a pacemaker circuit composed of clock-containing neurons. To interrogate the mechanistic relationship between the molecular clockwork and network communication critical to the operation of the Drosophila circadian pacemaker circuit, we established new fluorescent circadian reporters that permit single-cell recording of transcriptional and post-transcriptional rhythms in brain explants and cultured neurons. Live-imaging experiments combined with pharmacological and genetic manipulations demonstrate that the neuropeptide pigment-dispersing factor (PDF) amplifies the molecular rhythms via time-of-day- and activity-dependent upregulation of transcription from E-box-containing clock gene promoters within key pacemaker neurons. The effect of PDF on clock gene transcription and the known role of PDF in enhancing PER/TIM stability occur via independent pathways downstream of the PDF receptor, the former through a cAMP-independent mechanism and the latter through a cAMP-PKA dependent mechanism. These results confirm and extend the mechanistic understanding of the role of PDF in controlling the synchrony of the pacemaker neurons. More broadly, our results establish the utility of the new live-imaging tools for the study of molecular-neural interactions important for the operation of the circadian pacemaker circuit.

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  • Common and well-documented HLA alleles over all of Europe and within European sub-regions: A catalogue from the European Federation for Immunogenetics. HLA 2017 Feb;89(2):104-113. 10.1111/tan.12956.

    abstract

    A catalogue of common and well-documented (CWD) human leukocyte antigen (HLA), previously established by the American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (ASHI), is widely used as indicator for typing ambiguities to be resolved in tissue transplantation or for checking the universality of any HLA allele in the world. However, European population samples, which are characterized by a substantial level of genetic variation, are underrepresented in the ASHI catalogue. Therefore, the Population Genetics Working Group of the European Federation for Immunogenetics (EFI) has facilitated data collection for an European CWD catalogue.

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  • The HLA-A, -B and -DRB1 polymorphism in a large dataset of South Brazil bone marrow donors from Rio Grande do Sul. HLA 2016 Dec;():. 10.1111/tan.12933.

    abstract

    Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes are very informative in population genetics studies and their variability has been widely used to reconstruct the history of geographic and/or demographic expansions of human populations. The characterization of HLA diversity at the population level is also fundamental in clinical studies, particularly for bone marrow transplantation programs. In this study, we investigated the HLA molecular variation in Rio Grande do Sul, South Brazil, in order to identify possible regional differences across this state. More than 97,000 bone marrow donors were typed at the HLA- A, -B and -DRB1 loci and analyzed by considering two kinds of subdivisions based on both self-identified ethnicity and place of residence: (a) the official geographic subdivision defined by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics and (b) known information about the colonization history of the state. HLA allele and haplotype frequencies were estimated and compared among the defined subgroups. The results indicate a lack of correlation between genetic variation and geography and thus no clear HLA genetic structure based on geographic criteria. On the other hand, major differences were observed regarding ethnicity. In addition, local populations from Rio Grande do Sul were found to be genetically similar to their corresponding parental European populations from Germany, Italy and Portugal, as documented by historical data. Overall, this study provides a thorough characterization of the HLA genetic variation in Rio Grande do Sul and a better understanding of its demographic history, being most useful for the development of more efficient strategies in bone marrow donors' recruitment.

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  • Mapping the HLA diversity of the Iberian Peninsula. Hum. Immunol. 2016 Jul;():. S0198-8859(16)30153-7. 10.1016/j.humimm.2016.06.023.

    abstract

    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.

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  • HLA class I molecular variation and peptide-binding properties suggest a model of joint divergent asymmetric selection. Immunogenetics 2016 Jul;68(6-7):401-16. 10.1007/s00251-016-0918-x. 10.1007/s00251-016-0918-x. PMC4911380.

    abstract

    The main function of HLA class I molecules is to present pathogen-derived peptides to cytotoxic T lymphocytes. This function is assumed to drive the maintenance of an extraordinary amount of polymorphism at each HLA locus, providing an immune advantage to heterozygote individuals capable to present larger repertories of peptides than homozygotes. This seems contradictory, however, with a reduced diversity at individual HLA loci exhibited by some isolated populations. This study shows that the level of functional diversity predicted for the two HLA-A and HLA-B genes considered simultaneously is similar (almost invariant) between 46 human populations, even when a reduced diversity exists at each locus. We thus propose that HLA-A and HLA-B evolved through a model of joint divergent asymmetric selection conferring all populations an equivalent immune potential. The distinct pattern observed for HLA-C is explained by its functional evolution towards killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) activity regulation rather than peptide presentation.

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  • HLA supertype variation across populations: new insights into the role of natural selection in the evolution of HLA-A and HLA-B polymorphisms. Immunogenetics 2015 Nov;67(11-12):651-63. 10.1007/s00251-015-0875-9. 10.1007/s00251-015-0875-9. PMC4636516.

    abstract

    Supertypes are groups of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles which bind overlapping sets of peptides due to sharing specific residues at the anchor positions-the B and F pockets-of the peptide-binding region (PBR). HLA alleles within the same supertype are expected to be functionally similar, while those from different supertypes are expected to be functionally distinct, presenting different sets of peptides. In this study, we applied the supertype classification to the HLA-A and HLA-B data of 55 worldwide populations in order to investigate the effect of natural selection on supertype rather than allelic variation at these loci. We compared the nucleotide diversity of the B and F pockets with that of the other PBR regions through a resampling procedure and compared the patterns of within-population heterozygosity (He) and between-population differentiation (G ST) observed when using the supertype definition to those estimated when using randomized groups of alleles. At HLA-A, low levels of variation are observed at B and F pockets and randomized He and G ST do not differ from the observed data. By contrast, HLA-B concentrates most of the differences between supertypes, the B pocket showing a particularly high level of variation. Moreover, at HLA-B, the reassignment of alleles into random groups does not reproduce the patterns of population differentiation observed with supertypes. We thus conclude that differently from HLA-A, for which supertype and allelic variation show similar patterns of nucleotide diversity within and between populations, HLA-B has likely evolved through specific adaptations of its B pocket to local pathogens.

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  • HLA-A-B-C-DRB1-DQB1 phased haplotypes in 124 Nigerian families indicate extreme HLA diversity and low linkage disequilibrium in Central-West Africa. Tissue Antigens 2015 Oct;86(4):285-92. 10.1111/tan.12642.

    abstract

    The simultaneous typing of five-HLA loci at high resolution and the availability of pedigree data allowed us to characterize extended five-locus phased haplotypes in 124 Nigerian families and to compare the observed frequencies with those expected by an expectation-maximization algorithm for unphased data. Despite the occurrence of some frequent alleles at each locus (e.g. B*53:01, which is assumed to protect against Plasmodium falciparum), as many as 82% of the sampled individuals carry two unique five-locus haplotypes and only three extended haplotypes with frequency above 1% exhibit significant linkage disequilibrium. Although preliminary, these results reveal an extreme level of HLA diversity in the Nigerian population, which reflects both its multi-ethnic composition and the very ancient demographic history of African populations.

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  • HLA genetic diversity in Hungarians and Hungarian Gypsies: complementary differentiation patterns and demographic signals revealed by HLA-A, -B and -DRB1 in Central Europe. Tissue Antigens 2015 Aug;86(2):115-21. 10.1111/tan.12600.

    abstract

    Systematic analyses of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) profiles in different populations may increase the efficiency of bone marrow donor selection and help reconstructing human peopling history. We typed HLA-A, -B, and -DRB1 allele groups in two bone marrow donor cohorts of 2402 Hungarians and 186 Hungarian Gypsies and compared them with several Central-European, Spanish Gypsy, and Indian populations. Our results indicate that different European Gypsy populations share a common origin but diverged genetically as a consequence of founder effect and rapid genetic drift, whereas other European populations are related genetically in relation to geography. This study also suggests that while HLA-A accurately depicts the effects of genetic drift, HLA-B, and -DRB1 conserve more signatures of ancient population relationships, as a result of balancing selection.

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  • Correction to: "Forward-in-Time, Spatially Explicit Modeling Software to Simulate Genetic Lineages Under Selection". Evol. Bioinform. Online 2015 ;11(Suppl 2):69. 10.4137/EBO.S39777. ebo-suppl.2-2015-069. PMC4939849.

    abstract

    [This corrects the article DOI: 10.4137/EBO.S33488.].

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  • Forward-in-Time, Spatially Explicit Modeling Software to Simulate Genetic Lineages Under Selection. Evol. Bioinform. Online 2015 ;11(Suppl 2):27-39. 10.4137/EBO.S33488. ebo-suppl.2-2015-027. PMC4768942.

    abstract

    SELECTOR is a software package for studying the evolution of multiallelic genes under balancing or positive selection while simulating complex evolutionary scenarios that integrate demographic growth and migration in a spatially explicit population framework. Parameters can be varied both in space and time to account for geographical, environmental, and cultural heterogeneity. SELECTOR can be used within an approximate Bayesian computation estimation framework. We first describe the principles of SELECTOR and validate the algorithms by comparing its outputs for simple models with theoretical expectations. Then, we show how it can be used to investigate genetic differentiation of loci under balancing selection in interconnected demes with spatially heterogeneous gene flow. We identify situations in which balancing selection reduces genetic differentiation between population groups compared with neutrality and explain conflicting outcomes observed for human leukocyte antigen loci. These results and three previously published applications demonstrate that SELECTOR is efficient and robust for building insight into human settlement history and evolution.

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  • The HLA-net GENE[RATE] pipeline for effective HLA data analysis and its application to 145 population samples from Europe and neighbouring areas. Tissue Antigens 2014 May;83(5):307-23. 10.1111/tan.12356.

    abstract

    In this review, we present for the first time an integrated version of the Gene[rate] computer tools which have been developed during the last 5 years to analyse human leukocyte antigen (HLA) data in human populations, as well as the results of their application to a large dataset of 145 HLA-typed population samples from Europe and its two neighbouring areas, North Africa and West Asia, now forming part of the Gene[va] database. All these computer tools and genetic data are, from now, publicly available through a newly designed bioinformatics platform, HLA-net, here presented as a main achievement of the HLA-NET scientific programme. The Gene[rate] pipeline offers user-friendly computer tools to estimate allele and haplotype frequencies, to test Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE), selective neutrality and linkage disequilibrium, to recode HLA data, to convert file formats, to display population frequencies of chosen alleles and haplotypes in selected geographic regions, and to perform genetic comparisons among chosen sets of population samples, including new data provided by the user. Both numerical and graphical outputs are generated, the latter being highly explicit and of publication quality. All these analyses can be performed on the pipeline after scrupulous validation of the population sample's characterisation and HLA typing reporting according to HLA-NET recommendations. The Gene[va] database offers direct access to the HLA-A, -B, -C, -DQA1, -DQB1, -DRB1 and -DPB1 frequencies and summary statistics of 145 population samples having successfully passed these HLA-NET 'filters', and representing three European subregions (South-East, North-East and Central-West Europe) and two neighbouring areas (North Africa, as far as Sudan, and West Asia, as far as South India). The analysis of these data, summarized in this review, shows a substantial genetic variation at the regional level in this continental area. These results have main implications for population genetics, transplantation and epidemiological studies.

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  • NO to obsolete definitions: YES to blanks. Tissue Antigens 2014 Feb;83(2):119-20. 10.1111/tan.12276.

    abstract

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  • HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 allele associations in an Albanian patient population with rheumatoid arthritis: correlations with the specific autoantibody markers and inter-population DRB1 allele frequency variability. Rheumatol. Int. 2014 Aug;34(8):1065-71. 10.1007/s00296-013-2932-8.

    abstract

    The prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis and its specific autoantibodies varies in different populations. This variability depends on the genetic polymorphism of the immune response genes among which the HLA system plays a major role. In this context, we studied the HLA-DRB1 and HLA-DQB1 first-level allele frequencies in 100 Albanian patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and taking into account their rheumatoid factor (RF) and anticitrullinated peptide antibodies (ACPA) serologic subgroups, we compared them with the respective frequencies in a population of 191 Albanian individuals without known pathology. No differences were found between the controls and the RA patient group as a whole, but three statistically significant differences were found: an increase in DRB1*04 among ACPA+, RF+ and ACPA+/RF+ patients, a significant decrease in DRB1*11 among ACPA+/RF+ and also a decrease in DRB1*13 among RF+ patient subgroups. Comparing allele frequencies of putatively associated RA alleles in different European populations revealed a significant negative correlation between the RA predisposing DRB1*04 and protective DRB1*11 allele frequencies. A statistically significant correlation was also found between RA prevalence rates and DRB1*04 as well as DRB1*11 frequencies. The relatively low frequencies of DRB1*04 and high DRB1*11 in the Albanian population might explain the rather low positivity rate of ACPA and RF antibodies among the Albanian RA patients. These specific association patterns suggest that this first study of RA in an Albanian population should be followed up to include second level or higher definition of HLA alleles and to compare RA patterns among European populations.

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  • A new HLA map of Europe: Regional genetic variation and its implication for peopling history, disease-association studies and tissue transplantation. Hum. Hered. 2013 ;76(3-4):162-77. 000360855. 10.1159/000360855.

    abstract

    HLA genes are highly polymorphic in human populations as a result of diversifying selection related to their immune function. However, HLA geographic variation worldwide suggests that demographic factors also shaped their evolution. We here analyzed in detail HLA genetic variation in Europe in order to identify signatures of migration history and/or natural selection.

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  • The heterogeneous HLA genetic makeup of the Swiss population. PLoS ONE 2012 ;7(7):e41400. 10.1371/journal.pone.0041400. PONE-D-12-01163. PMC3405111.

    abstract

    This study aims at investigating the HLA molecular variation across Switzerland in order to determine possible regional differences, which would be highly relevant to several purposes: optimizing donor recruitment strategies in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), providing reliable reference data in HLA and disease association studies, and understanding the population genetic background(s) of this culturally heterogeneous country. HLA molecular data of more than 20,000 HSCT donors from 9-13 recruitment centers of the whole country were analyzed. Allele and haplotype frequencies were estimated by using new computer tools adapted to the heterogeneity and ambiguity of the data. Non-parametric and resampling statistical tests were performed to assess Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, selective neutrality and linkage disequilibrium among different loci, both in each recruitment center and in the whole national registry. Genetic variation was explored through genetic distance and hierarchical analysis of variance taking into account both geographic and linguistic subdivisions in Switzerland. The results indicate a heterogeneous genetic makeup of the Swiss population: first, allele frequencies estimated on the whole national registry strongly deviate from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, by contrast with the results obtained for individual centers; second, a pronounced differentiation is observed for Ticino, Graubünden, and, to a lesser extent, Wallis, suggesting that the Alps represent(ed) a barrier to gene flow; finally, although cultural (linguistic) boundaries do not represent a main genetic differentiation factor in Switzerland, the genetic relatedness between population from south-eastern Switzerland and Italy agrees with historical and linguistic data. Overall, this study justifies the maintenance of a decentralized donor recruitment structure in Switzerland allowing increasing the genetic diversity of the national--and hence global--donor registry. It also indicates that HLA data of local donor recruitment centers can be used as reference data in both epidemiological and population genetic studies focusing on the genetic history of present European populations.

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  • Allele frequency estimation from ambiguous data: using resampling schema in validating frequency estimates and in selective neutrality testing. Hum. Biol. 2011 Jun;83(3):437-47. 10.3378/027.083.0307.

    abstract

    The development of molecular typing techniques applied to the study of population genetic diversity originates data with increasing precision but at the cost of some ambiguities. As distinct techniques may produce distinct kinds of ambiguities, a crucial issue is to assess the differences between frequency distributions estimated from data produced by alternative techniques for the same sample. To that aim, we developed a resampling scheme that allows evaluating, by statistical means, the significance of the difference between two frequency distributions. The same approach is then shown to be applicable to test selective neutrality when only sample frequencies are known. The use of these original methods is presented here through an application to the genetic study of a Munda human population sample, where three different HLA loci were typed using two different molecular methods (reverse PCR-SSO typing on microbeads arrays based on Luminex technology and PCR-SSP typing), as described in details in the companion article by Riccio et al. [The Austroasiatic Munda population from India and its enigmatic origin: An HLA diversity study. Hum. Biol. 38:405-435 (2011)]. The differences between the frequency estimates of the two typing techniques were found to be smaller than those resulting from sampling. Overall, we show that using a resampling scheme in validating frequency estimates is effective when alternative frequency estimates are available. Moreover, resampling appears to be the unique way to test selective neutrality when only frequency data are available to describe the genetic structure of populations.

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  • The Austroasiatic Munda population from India and Its enigmatic origin: a HLA diversity study. Hum. Biol. 2011 Jun;83(3):405-35. 10.3378/027.083.0306.

    abstract

    The Austroasiatic linguistic family disputes its origin between two geographically distant regions of Asia, India, and Southeast Asia, respectively. As genetic studies based on classical and gender-specific genetic markers provided contradictory results to this debate thus far, we investigated the HLA diversity (HLA-A, -B, and -DRB1 loci) of an Austroasiatic Munda population from Northeast India and its relationships with other populations from India and Southeast Asia. Because molecular methods currently used to test HLA markers often provide ambiguous results due to the high complexity of this polymorphism, we applied two different techniques (reverse PCR-SSO typing on microbeads arrays based on Luminex technology, and PCR-SSP typing) to type the samples. After validating the resulting frequency distributions through the original statistical method described in our companion article ( Nunes et al. 2011 ), we compared the HLA genetic profile of the sampled Munda to those of other Asiatic populations, among which Dravidian and Indo-European-speakers from India and populations from East and Southeast Asia speaking languages belonging to different linguistic families. We showed that the Munda from Northeast India exhibit a peculiar genetic profile with a reduced level of HLA diversity compared to surrounding Indian populations. They also exhibit less diversity than Southeast Asian populations except at locus DRB1. Several analyses using genetic distances indicate that the Munda are much more closely related to populations from the Indian subcontinent than to Southeast Asian populations speaking languages of the same Austroasiatic linguistic family. On the other hand, they do not share a closer relationship with Dravidians compared with Indo-Europeans, thus arguing against the idea that the Munda share a common and ancient Indian origin with Dravidians. Our results do not favor either a scenario where the Munda would be representative of an ancestral Austroasiatic population giving rise to an eastward Austroasiatic expansion to Southeast Asia. Rather, their peculiar genetic profile is better explained by a decrease in genetic diversity through genetic drift from an ancestral population having a genetic profile similar to present-day Austroasiatic populations from Southeast Asia (thus suggesting a possible southeastern origin), followed by intensive gene flow with neighboring Indian populations. This conclusion is in agreement with archaeological and linguistic information. The history of the Austroasiatic family represents a fascinating example where complex interactions among culturally distinct human populations occurred in the past.

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  • Analysis of the HLA population data (AHPD) submitted to the 15th International Histocompatibility/Immunogenetics Workshop by using the Gene[rate] computer tools accommodating ambiguous data (AHPD project report). Tissue Antigens 2010 Jul;76(1):18-30. TAN1469. 10.1111/j.1399-0039.2010.01469.x.

    abstract

    During the 15th International Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics Workshop (IHIWS), 14 human leukocyte antigen (HLA) laboratories participated in the Analysis of HLA Population Data (AHPD) project where 18 new population samples were analyzed statistically and compared with data available from previous workshops. To that aim, an original methodology was developed and used (i) to estimate frequencies by taking into account ambiguous genotypic data, (ii) to test for Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (HWE) by using a nested likelihood ratio test involving a parameter accounting for HWE deviations, (iii) to test for selective neutrality by using a resampling algorithm, and (iv) to provide explicit graphical representations including allele frequencies and basic statistics for each series of data. A total of 66 data series (1-7 loci per population) were analyzed with this standard approach. Frequency estimates were compliant with HWE in all but one population of mixed stem cell donors. Neutrality testing confirmed the observation of heterozygote excess at all HLA loci, although a significant deviation was established in only a few cases. Population comparisons showed that HLA genetic patterns were mostly shaped by geographic and/or linguistic differentiations in Africa and Europe, but not in America where both genetic drift in isolated populations and gene flow in admixed populations led to a more complex genetic structure. Overall, a fruitful collaboration between HLA typing laboratories and population geneticists allowed finding useful solutions to the problem of estimating gene frequencies and testing basic population diversity statistics on highly complex HLA data (high numbers of alleles and ambiguities), with promising applications in either anthropological, epidemiological, or transplantation studies.

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