The genetics and molecular basis of alpha thalassaemia in association with Hb S in Jamaican Negroes.
Higgs DR., Pressley L., Serjeant GR., Clegg JB., Weatherall DJ.
We have studied seven Jamaican Negro families in whom the genes for alpha thalassaemia and the sickle cell mutation (betas) were independently segregated. Using a combination of techniques we identified two alpha thalassaemia phenotypes which resemble the severe (alpha thalassaemia 1) and mild (alpha thalassaemia 2) determinants previously described in Orientals. This study has enabled us to clearly correlate the phenotype of alpha thalassaemia with the genotype in this population. Furthermore, since in each family alpha thalassaemia was present in association with the gene for the sickle cell mutation we have determined the proportion of Hb S in the peripheral blood of individuals with the alpha alpha/alpha alpha, -alpha/alpha alpha and -alpha/-alpha genotype who are also heterozygous for the betas mutation. Genetic analysis in these families shows that in each case subjects with the alpha thalassaemia 1 phenotype are homozygous for the alpha thalassaemia 2 defect (-alpha/-alpha). We have found no instances of the genotype --/alpha alpha in this population which may explain the rarity of the severe alpha thalassaemia syndromes in Jamaica. Restriction mapping data in the alpha thalassaemia 2 homozygotes from this population shows that the (-alpha/) haplotype results from a deletion of one of the linked pair of alpha globin genes and that this has probably arisen by an unequal crossover between non-homologous alpha genes.