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Genetic Map of African-Americans will Aid the Study of Diseases

Benjamin Rybicki, PH.D. and John Wienke, Ph.D.
Henry Ford Health System and University of California, San Francisco
NIEHS Grants R01ES011126 and R01ES006717

A large multi-institutional team of researchers, including NIEHS grantees, has constructed a detailed genetic map from a population of more than 30,000 African-Americans that will be used to better understand the causes of disease and human evolution. This new map is the first built from an African-American population.

The map holds promise for both broad genome-wide applications and narrowly focused single disease research. The map will be helpful in studying diseases with a genetic basis especially those that strike African-Americans frequently like hypertension, diabetes, etc. A surprising finding was that the map turned out to be very different than maps based on people of European and other non-African ancestry. The authors think this is due to recombination that has occurred in the U.S. population over the last two or three centuries. It turns out that African-Americans have genetic machinery for recombination that is different than Europeans. The team discovered that a 13 base-pair motif responsible for many recombination hotspots in Europeans accounts for only two-thirds as much recombination in African-Americans. The remaining third is connected to a newly identified motif of 17 base-pairs.

These findings are expected to help researchers understand the underlying causes of congenital conditions that occur more often in African-Americans and will also be invaluable in discovering new disease genes in all populations.

Citation: Citation: Hinch AG, The landscape of recombination in African Americans. Nature. 2011 Jul 20;476(7359):170-175.

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