Genetic variation in TLR genes in Ugandan and South African populations and comparison with HapMap data

Genetic epidemiological studies of complex diseases often rely on data from the International HapMap Consortium for identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), particularly those that tag haplotypes. However, little is known about the relevance of the African populations used to collect HapMap data for study populations conducted elsewhere in Africa. Toll-like receptor (TLR) genes play a key role in susceptibility to various infectious diseases, including tuberculosis. We conducted full-exon sequencing in samples obtained from Uganda (n = 48) and South Africa (n = 48), in four genes in the TLR pathway: TLR2, TLR4, TLR6, and TIRAP. We identified one novel TIRAP SNP (with minor allele frequency [MAF] 3.2%) and a novel TLR6 SNP (MAF 8%) in the Ugandan population, and a TLR6 SNP that is unique to the South African population (MAF 14%). These SNPs were also not present in the 1000 Genomes data. Genotype and haplotype frequencies and linkage disequilibrium patterns in Uganda and South Africa were similar to African populations in the HapMap datasets. Multidimensional scaling analysis of polymorphisms in all four genes suggested broad overlap of all of the examined African populations. Based on these data, we propose that there is enough similarity among African populations represented in the HapMap database to justify initial SNP selection for genetic epidemiological studies in Uganda and South Africa. We also discovered three novel polymorphisms that appear to be population-specific and would only be detected by sequencing efforts.