, Volume 89, Issue 4, pp 375-384
Date: 06 Oct 2009

An extensive analysis of the hereditary hemochromatosis gene HFE and neighboring histone genes: associations with childhood leukemia

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Abstract

The most common mutation of the HFE gene C282Y has shown a risk association with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in Welsh and Scottish case–control studies. This finding has not been replicated outside Britain. Here, we present a thorough analysis of the HFE gene in a panel of HLA homozygous reference cell lines and in the original population sample from South Wales (117 childhood ALL cases and 414 newborn controls). The 21 of 24 variants analyzed were from the HFE gene region extending 52 kb from the histone gene HIST1H1C to HIST1H1T. We identified the single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs807212 as a tagging SNP for the most common HFE region haplotype, which contains wild-type alleles of all HFE variants examined. This intergenic SNP rs807212 yielded a strong male-specific protective association (per allele OR = 0.38, 95% CI = 0.22–0.64, P (trend) = 0.0002; P = 0.48 in females), which accounted for the original C282Y risk association. In the HapMap project data, rs807212 was in strong linkage disequilibrium with 25 other SNPs spanning 151 kb around HFE. Minor alleles of these 26 SNPs characterized the most common haplotype for the HFE region, which lacked all disease-associated HFE variants. The HapMap data suggested positive selection in this region even in populations where the HFE C282Y mutation is absent. These results have implications for the sex-specific associations observed in this region and suggest the inclusion of rs807212 in future studies of the HFE gene and the extended HLA class I region.