Hemochromatosis (HC) is an inherited disorder of iron metabolism and is frequently seen in Caucasians. The biochemical defect and the responsible gene are unknown, but the HC locus is closely linked to HLA-A on human chromosome 6 in the region 6p21.3. Although extensive studies have been performed in several populations, the precise location of the gene is still undefined. Linkage disequilibrium with HC has been detected for loci that are 3 cM apart: HLA class I and D6S105, which is located on the telomeric side of HLA-A. We have analyzed the inheritance of several multi-allele polymorphisms that map to 6p (D6S265, Y52, HLA-F, D6S306, D6S105, D6S464, D6S299) in 34 Italian HC families and in 17 unrelated patients. Significant association with HC was shown for alleles of multiple markers in the HLA-A region, for the distant marker D6S105, but not for the D6S299 marker at 4 cM from HLA-A on the telomeric side. HC status was unambiguously assigned to 70 affected and 63 unaffected chromosomes from family studies. Thirty five different haplotypes were found in 70 HC chromosomes when considering four markers most tighly associated with the disease. A predominant haplotype comprising alleles 1-3-1-8 (marker order D6S265, HLA-A, Y52, D6S105) accounted for 30% of the HC chromosomes and was absent in normals. A minority of other HC haplotypes could be related to the major haplotype by assuming single crossover events. Results of haplotype studies suggest a founder effect in the Italian population, as previously shown in Australian patients, and a possible common mutation shared with affected individuals of Celtic origin.
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