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Admixed populations are a resource to study the global genetic architecture of complex phenotypes, which is critical, considering that non-European populations are severely under-represented in genomic studies. Leveraging admixture in Brazilians, whose chromosomes are mosaics of fragments of Native American, European and African origins, we used genome-wide data to perform admixture mapping/fine-mapping of Body Mass Index (BMI) in three population-based cohorts from Northeast (Salvador), Southeast (Bambuí) and South (Pelotas) of the country. We found significant associations with African-associated alleles in children from Salvador (PALD1 and ZMIZ1 genes), and in young adults from Pelotas (NOD2 and MTUS2 genes). More importantly, in Pelotas, rs114066381, mapped in a potential regulatory region, is significantly associated only in females (p= 2.76 e-06). This variant is very rare in Europeans but with frequencies of ~3% in West Africa, and has a strong female-specific effect (95%CI: 2.32-5.65 kg/m2 per each A allele). We confirmed this sex-specific association and replicated its strong effect for an adjusted fat-mass index in the same Pelotas cohort, and for BMI in another Brazilian cohort from São Paulo (Southeast Brazil). A meta-analysis confirmed the significant association. Remarkably, we observed that while the frequency of rs114066381-A allele ranges from 0.8 to 2.1% in the studied populations, it attains ~9% among morbidly obese women from Pelotas, São Paulo, and Bambuí. The effect size of rs114066381 is at least five-times the effect size of the FTO SNPs rs9939609 and rs1558902, already emblematic for their high effects, and for which we replicated associations in Pelotas. We demonstrate how, after a decade of GWAS mostly performed in European-ancestry populations, non-European and admixed populations are a source of new relevant phenotype-associated genetic variants.

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