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Polymorphism of HLA genes was investigated in a population sample of Ryukyuans living on the main island of Okinawa (n — 197), in the southwestern islands of Japan. Serological typing was applied to class I loci (HLA-A, -B, and -C) and to HLA-DRB1; nucleotide sequence-level typing was performed using PCR microtiter plate hybridization and PCR single-strand conformation polymorphism methods. Ryukyuans showed a higher frequency of DRB1*0405 and lower frequencies of DRB1*1502 and DRB1*1302 compared with Hondo Japanese living on main islands. Principal components and phylogenetic analyses of 12 East Asian populations, including Ryukyuans, were performed based on the allele frequencies of HLA-A, -B, and -DRB1. In the principal components analysis 3 Japanese populations (Ryukyuans, Hondo Japanese, and Ainu) formed a cluster and showed the highest affinity to 2 Korean populations. In the phylogenetic tree Ryukyuans and Ainu were neighbors, but the genetic distance between them was larger than the distances between Ryukyuans and Hondo Japanese and between Ryukyuans and Korean populations. The geographic cline of the predominant haplotype in Ryukyuans, A*24-B*54-DRB1*0405, suggests that an ancestral population possessing A*24-B*54-DRB1*0405 moved into the Okinawa Islands after the divergence of Ryukyuans from the Ainu. Such a recent gene flow, probably from South China to the Okinawa Islands, is considered the major cause of difference in genetic characteristics between Ryukyuans and the Ainu.