In this study, we carried out restriction endonuclease mapping in order to characterize the alpha-globin genotype of 10 Sardinian beta 0- thalassemia heterozygotes, all of whom presented with normal red blood cell indices and increased HbA2 levels. In 8 of these subjects, we found the deletion of two alpha-globin genes (-alpha/-alpha), and in the remaining two the deletion of a single alpha-globin gene (- alpha/alpha alpha). In three of these carriers with the (-alpha/-alpha) alpha-globin genotype and in one with the (-alpha/alpha alpha) genotype, we also found the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) defect of the Mediterranean type. On the basis of these findings, we may conclude that the interaction of heterozygous beta 0-thalassemia with alpha-thalassemia, due to the deletion of either one or two alpha- globin genes, may lead to the production of red blood cells with normal indices. The association of the G6PD defect with this thalassemia gene complex may eventually contribute to this effect. We suggest, therefore, that screening programs for heterozygous beta-thalassemia in populations where alpha-thalassemia is also prevalent, should incorporate the determination of HbA2 in the first set of tests.

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