The p.H63D allele of the HFE gene protects against low iron stores in Sri Lanka.
Allen A., Premawardhena A., Allen S., Rodrigo R., Manamperi A., Perera L., Wray K., Armitage A., Fisher C., Drakesmith A., Robson K., Weatherall D.
In hereditary hemochromatosis, iron overload is associated with homozygosity for the p.C282Y mutation. A second mutation, p.H63D, occurs at significant frequencies in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Early studies in Sri Lanka indicated that the variant had arisen independently, suggesting that it had been the subject of selective pressure. However, its role in iron absorption is unclear. In a survey of 7526 Sri Lankan secondary school students, we determined hemoglobin genotype and measured red cell indices, serum ferritin, transferrin receptor, iron zinc protoporphyrin and hepcidin. These variables were compared according to the presence or absence of the p.H63D variant in a subset of 1313 students for whom DNA samples were available. Students were classified as having low red cell indices if they had an MCV <80 fl and/or MCH <27 pg. Hetero and/or homozygosity for the p.H63D variant was more common in students with normal than low red cell indices (16.4% and 11.9% respectively; p = 0.019). Iron biomarkers and red cell indices were greater in children with the p.H63D variant than in normal and this was statistically significant for MCV (p = 0.046). Our findings suggest that selective pressure by mild iron deficiency contributes to the high frequencies of the p.H63D variant.