Hemoglobin and HFE gene polymorphisms in Brazilian populations in regions endemic for malaria
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Our objective was to determine how the distribution of red blood cell diseases is related to malaria occurrence in north Brazil, a region endemic for malaria. We evaluated the incidence of two mutations in the HFE gene, H63D and C282Y, in two study groups: a control blood donor group, with no indication of malaria infection, and a group constituted of malaria patients of four states of the Amazonian region. The hemoglobin polymorphisms were obtained by HPLC and classical laboratory methodologies, and the two mutations in the HFE gene were assayed by PCR-RFLP. We found a high frequency of alpha thalassemia, but there were no significant differences between blood donors and malaria patients. There were also no significant differences in the frequencies of HbA(2); however, the frequency of HbF was significantly different in individuals with malaria from Para and Rondonia. The mean number of reticulocytes was significantly reduced in the blood donors from the northern region, suggesting an adaptive strategy of these populations to parasitic attack by Plasmodium. Most individuals were heterozygous for the H63D allele of the HFE gene in both study groups. In the blood donors group, the greatest frequency of the H63D allele was found in Caucasians of all the states. In the malaria patients group in Rondonia, there was a high frequency of the H63D allele among the non-Caucasians. In the other states, and in the malaria patients group, the H63D allele was the most frequent among the Caucasians. Based on our results, we suggest that the maintenance of polymorphism of the mutations in the gene HFE can be explained by selective factors other than malaria, or it is due to simple allelic oscillation and by the constant gene flow among the populations in Brazil.