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A unique demographic history exists for the MAO-A gene in Polynesians


Variation in the human monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) gene can influence neurotransmittor levels and is thought to have a role in many behavioral traits. The genetic architecture of MAO-A is known to vary across different geographic subgroups. Previous studies have reported evidence for positive selection within the MAO-A gene region in seven ethnic groups: Pygmy, Aboriginal Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Russian. Polynesian populations have not been tested and repeated founder effects due to the island-hopping voyages of Polynesians across the South Pacific suggest a unique demographic history exists at the MAO-A gene, perhaps including selective effects. To explore this, we genotyped 13 key single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) spanning MAO-A gene as well as the functional polymorphism (MAO-A-uVNTR) in 47 unrelated Maori individuals. A comparison of genetic variation between Maori and non-Maori groups found a substantial reduction in genetic diversity at the MAO-A gene locus and an increase in the frequency of the most common MAO-A gene variant in the Maori group. Results of this study support previous findings and also point toward a 5-SNP haplotype that may have been influenced by selective effects in the Maori population. Full-sequence data for MAO-A in a large cohort are now required to conclusively determine whether MAO-A has undergone positive selection in Polynesians. Overall, these new data describe a unique demographic history for the MAO-A gene in the Maori population and will be helpful for studies wishing to investigate MAO-A as a candidate gene for influencing behavioral traits in the Polynesians.

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