Recent data suggest that HLA-B locus alleles can evolve quickly in native South American populations. To investigate further this phenomenon of new HLA-B variants among Amerindians, we studied samples from another South American tribe, the Cayapa from Ecuador. We selected individuals for HLA-B molecular typing based upon their HLA class II typing results. Three new variants of HLA-B39 and one new variant of HLA-BIS were found in the Cayapa: HLA-B(*)3905, HLA-B(*)3906, HLA-B(*)3907, and HLA-B(*)1522. A total of thirteen new HLA-B alleles have now been found in the four South American tribes studied. Each of these four tribes studied, including the Cayapa, had novel alleles that were not found in any of the other tribes, suggesting that many of these new HLA-B alleles may have evolved since the Paleo-Indians originally populated South America. Each of these 13 new alleles contained predicted amino acid replacements that were located in the peptide binding site. These amino acid replacements may affect the sequence motif of the bound peptides, suggesting that these new alleles have been maintained by selection. New allelic variants have been found for all common HLA-B locus antigenic groups present in South American tribes with the exception of B48. In spite of its high frequency in South American tribes, no evidence for variants of B48 has been found in all the Amerindians studied, suggesting that B48 may have unique characteristics among the B locus alleles.
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