Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency is probably the most common disease-producing genetic polymorphism of humans. Virtually all G6PD-deficient Africans show the G6PD A- phenotype, an electrophoretically rapid, deficient enzyme. The recently acquired ability to identify the point mutations producing the different variants has given us new insights into the population genetics of G6PD variants. Twenty-nine males with the G6PD A- phenotype were studied. They were of African, Mexican, Spanish, and US white ethnic origin. All had the A---G transition at nucleotide 376 characteristic of G6PD A. In each case, one of three additional mutations was present, at nucleotides 202, 680, or 968. That in this population second mutations producing G6PD deficiency occurred only on the genetic background of G6PD A suggests that G6PD A was at one time the most common type of G6PD in Africa. However, the nucleotide sequence of the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) G6PD indicates that the primordial human type of G6PD was G6PD B.

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