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Copy number variation in African Americans

Joseph P McElroy1, Matthew R Nelson2, Stacy J Caillier1 and Jorge R Oksenberg1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

2 GlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27709, USA

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BMC Genetics 2009, 10:15  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-10-15

Published: 24 March 2009



Copy number variants (CNVs) have been identified in several studies to be associated with complex diseases. It is important, therefore, to understand the distribution of CNVs within and among populations. This study is the first report of a CNV map in African Americans.


Employing a SNP platform with greater than 500,000 SNPs, a first-generation CNV map of the African American genome was generated using DNA from 385 healthy African American individuals, and compared to a sample of 435 healthy White individuals. A total of 1362 CNVs were identified within African Americans, which included two CNV regions that were significantly different in frequency between African Americans and Whites (17q21 and 15q11). In addition, a duplication was identified in 74% of DNAs derived from cell lines that was not present in any of the whole blood derived DNAs.


The Affymetrix 500 K array provides reliable CNV mapping information. However, using cell lines as a source of DNA may introduce artifacts. The duplication identified in high frequency in Whites and low frequency in African Americans on chromosome 17q21 reflects haplotype specific frequency differences between ancestral groups. The generation of the CNV map will be a valuable tool for identifying disease associated CNVs in African Americans.