Background: The prevalence of lactase persistence is high in Saudi Arabia.
Objective: To identify a DNA variant for the lactase persistence/non-persistence trait in adult Arabs in Saudi Arabia.
Methods: We sequenced DNA from 432 anonymous neonatal blood donors from five different regions of Saudi Arabia to cover the 400 bp region surrounding the previously identified lactase persistence/non-persistence variant C/T−13910 residing in intron 13 of the MCM6 gene.
Results: Two anonymous blood donors carried the C/T−13910 genotype. One variant, T/G −13915, residing 5 bp upstream of the C/T−13910 variant, was present in 332 of 432 (76.9%) of the neonatal samples, compatible with previous prevalence figures of lactase persistence in urban Saudi populations. Determination of disaccharidase activities in 25 intestinal biopsy samples showed a highly significant correlation between lactase activity and the T/G−13915 genotypes (p<0.001; Fisher exact test) as well as between the L:S ratio and the aforementioned genotypes (p<0.001; Fisher exact test).
Conclusion: The T/G−13915 variant is the founder mutation of lactase persistence in an urban Saudi population. The results obtained here have implications for genetic testing of adult-type hypolactasia and to analysis of human evolution, the origin of cattle domestication and migrations of the populations in the Arabian peninsula.
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Competing interests: None declared.
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