Earlier analysis of the Italian population showed patterns of genetic differentiation that were interpreted as being the result of population settlements going back to pre-Roman times. DNA disease mutations may be a powerful tool in further testing this hypothesis since the analysis of diseased individuals can detect variants too rare to be resolved in normal individuals. We present data on the relative frequencies of 60 cystic fibrosis (CF) mutations in Italy and the geographical distribution of the 12 most frequent CF mutations screened in 3492 CF chromosomes originating in 13 Italian regions. The 12 most frequent mutations characterize about 73% of the Italian CF chromosomes. The most common mutation, ΔF508, has an average frequency of 51%, followed by N1303K and G542X, both with average frequencies around 5%. Multivariate analyses show that the relative frequencies of CF mutations are heterogeneous among Italian regions, and that this heterogeneity is weakly correlated with the geographical pattern of non-DNA 'classical' genetic markers. The northern regions are well differentiated from the central-southern regions and within the former group the western and eastern regions are remarkably distinct. Moreover, Sardinia shows the presence of mutation T338I, which seems absent in any other European CF chromosome. The north-western regions of Italy, characterized by the mutation 1717-1G→A, were under Celtic influence, while the north-east regions, characterized by the mutations R1162X, 2183AA→G and 711 + 5G→X, were under the influence of the Venetic culture.
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