Genome-wide analyses disclose the distinctive HLA architecture and the pharmacogenetic landscape of the Somali population

Authors: Abshir A. Ali, Mikko Aalto, Jon Jonasson & Abdimajid Osman

Scientific Reports, 2020


African populations are underrepresented in medical genomics studies. For the Somali population, there is virtually no information on genomic markers with significance to precision medicine. Here, we analyzed nearly 900,000 genomic markers in samples collected from 95 unrelated individuals in the North Eastern Somalia. ADMIXTURE program for estimation of individual ancestries revealed a homogenous Somali population. Principal component analysis with PLINK software showed approximately 60% East African and 40% West Eurasian genes in the Somali population, with a close relation to the Cushitic and Semitic speaking Ethiopian populations. We report the unique features of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) in the Somali population, which seem to differentiate from all other neighboring regions compared. Current study identified high prevalence of the diabetes type 1 (T1D) predisposing HLA DR-DQ haplotypes in Somalia. This finding may explain the increased T1D risk observed among Somali children. In addition, ethnic Somalis were found to host the highest frequencies observed thus far for several pharmacogenetic variants, including UGT1A4*2. In conclusion, we report that the Somali population displays genetic traits of significance to health and disease. The Somali dataset is publicly available and will add more information to the few genomic datasets available for African populations.

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