Huntington disease (HD) is a dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the Huntingtin (HTT) gene. HD occurs worldwide, but the causative mutation is found on different HTT haplotypes in distinct ethnic groups. In Latin America, HD is thought to have European origins, but indigenous Amerindian ancestry has not been investigated. Here, we report dense HTT haplotypes in 62 mestizo Peruvian HD families, 17 HD families from across Latin America, and 42 controls of defined Peruvian Amerindian ethnicity to determine the origin of HD in populations of admixed Amerindian and European descent. HD in Peru occurs most frequently on the A1 HTT haplotype (73%), as in Europe, but on an unexpected indigenous variant also found in Amerindian controls. This Amerindian A1 HTT haplotype predominates over the European A1 variant among geographically disparate Latin American controls and in HD families from across Latin America, supporting an indigenous origin of the HD mutation in mestizo American populations. We also show that a proportion of HD mutations in Peru occur on a C1 HTT haplotype of putative Amerindian origin (14%). The majority of HD mutations in Latin America may therefore occur on haplotypes of Amerindian ancestry rather than on haplotypes resulting from European admixture. Despite the distinct ethnic ancestry of Amerindian and European A1 HTT, alleles on the parent A1 HTT haplotype allow for development of identical antisense molecules to selectively silence the HD mutation in the greatest proportion of patients in both Latin American and European populations.
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We thank the many patients cared for by the INCN and the UBC Centre for HD for their donation of DNA for this study. We also thank Simon Warby for initial communications that led to the collaboration between INCN and the CMMT at UBC. We acknowledge Michelle Higginson and Nasim Massah for their assistance in genotyping. CK is supported by a Doctoral Research Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Funding for this study was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR: MOP-84438)