Strong balancing selection at HLA loci: Evidence from segregation in South Amerindian families

Francis L. Black, Philip W. Hedrick

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60 Scopus citations


The genotypic proportions for major histocompatibility complex loci, HLA-A and HLA-B, of progeny in families in 23 South Amerindian tribes in which segregation for homozygotes and heterozygotes could occur are examined. Overall, there is a large deficiency of homozygotes compared with Mendelian expectations (for HLA-A, 114 observed and 155.50 expected and for HLA-B 110 observed and 144.75 expected), consistent with strong balancing selection favoring heterozygotes. There is no evidence that these deficiencies were associated with particular alleles or with the age of the individuals sampled. When these families were divided into four mating types, there was strong selection against homozygotes, averaging 0.462 for three of the mating types over the two loci. For the other mating type in which the female parent is homozygous and shares one allele with the heterozygous male parent, there was no evidence of selection against homozygotes. A theoretical model incorporating these findings surprisingly does not result in a stable polymorphism for two alleles but does result in an excess of heterozygotes and a minimum fitness at intermediate allele frequencies. However, for more than two alleles, balancing selection does occur and the model approaches the qualities of the symmetrical heterozygote advantage model as the number of alleles increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12452-12456
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 11 1997


  • Heterozygote advantage
  • Major histocompatibility complex
  • Maternal-fetal interaction
  • Polymorphism
  • Reciprocal matings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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