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Arsenic is a carcinogen associated with skin lesions and cardiovascular diseases. The Colla population from the Puna region in Northwest Argentinean is exposed to levels of arsenic in drinking water exceeding the recommended maximum by a factor of 20. Yet, they thrive in this challenging environment since thousands of years and therefore we hypothesize strong selection signatures in genes involved in arsenic metabolism. We analyzed genome-wide genotype data for 730,000 loci in 25 Collas, considering 24 individuals of the neighbouring Calchaquíes and 24 Wichí from the Gran Chaco region in the Argentine province of Salta as control groups. We identified a strong signal of positive selection in the main arsenic methyltransferase AS3MT gene, which has been previously associated with lower concentrations of the most toxic product of arsenic metabolism monomethylarsonic acid. This study confirms recent studies reporting selection signals in the AS3MT gene albeit using different samples, tests and control populations.

Original publication




Journal article


Mutat Res

Publication Date





97 - 102


Arsenic drinking water, Calchaquíes, Collas, Methyltransferase, Puna, Adult, Argentina, Arsenic, Arsenicals, Female, Genome-Wide Association Study, Humans, Indians, South American, Male, Methyltransferases, Selection, Genetic, Water Pollutants, Chemical