Location, lifestyle can switch genes on or off

April 23rd, 2008 - 8:31 pm ICT by admin  


Washington, April 23 (IANS) Genes can be choosy about being dormant or going into overdrive -depending on the environment or location they find themselves in. For example, researchers found that respiratory genes were turned on more frequently in urban population than in the nomadic or agrarian populations.

Youssef Idaghdour, a researcher, said it made sense as urban dwellers deal with greater amounts of pollution and were, therefore, more susceptible to asthma and bronchitis.

Conversely, respiratory genes stay quiet in rural and nomadic populations, in cleaner environments, he said, according to Sciencedaily.

Idaghdour of North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Greg Gibson of Queensland University (Australia), set out to study the impact of the transition from traditional to urbanised lifestyles on the human immune system, in Morocco.

They used the latest tools for characterising the sequence and expression of all 23,000 human genes to compare the three Moroccan Berber groups.

These groups were chosen because they have a similar genetic makeup but lead distinct ways of life and occupy different geographic domains.

The team uncovered specific genes and pathways that are affected by lifestyle and geography.

NCSU researchers also examined every gene in each of the three populations and found very few genetic differences, indicating these limited differences were unlikely to explain the large gene expression differences.

“The most important implication of this study is that people with the same genetic makeup can be in different environments and have different expression profiles,” Idaghdour said.

The article was published in PloS Genetics.

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