Identification of a candidate genetic variant for the high prevalence of type II diabetes in Polynesians
The prevalence of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (type II diabetes) in Polynesia is among the highest recorded worldwide and is substantially higher than in neighboring human populations. Such large differences in the frequency of a phenotype between populations may be explained by large allele frequency differences between populations in genes associated with the phenotype. To identify genes that may explain the high between-population variation in type II diabetes prevalence in the Pacific, we determined the frequency of 10 type II diabetes-associated alleles in 23 Polynesians, 23 highland New Guineans and 19 Han Chinese, calculated population-pairwise Fst values for each allele and compared these values to the distribution of Fst values from ∼100 000 SNPs from the same populations. The susceptibility allele in the PPARGC1A gene is at a frequency of 0.717 in Polynesians, 0.368 in Chinese but is absent in the New Guineans. The striking frequency difference between Polynesians and New Guineans is highly unusual (Fst=0.703, P=0.007) and we therefore suggest that this allele may play a role in the large difference in type II diabetes prevalence between Polynesians and neighboring populations.