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Did Europeans get fat from Neanderthals?

Contemporary Europeans have as many as three times more Neanderthal variants in genes involved in lipid catabolism than Asians and Africans.

Did Europeans get fat from Neanderthals?
(a) Schematic representation of genomic distance calculations between contemporary human populations and Neanderthals. The genomes of out-of-Africa individuals were compared with the genomes of individuals of purely African ancestry (YRI). Single nucleotide differences from the Neanderthal genotype in an African genome were referred to as ‘ABBA’, while sites with the Neanderthal genotype in an out-of-Africa genome were referred to as ‘BABA’. (b) Average proportions of NLS in contemporary African (AF), European (EU) and Asian (AS) populations calculated based on sequence data from the 1,000 genomes project13; blue: genome wide (n=1,158,559 sites), red: LCP genes (n=498 sites). The error bars show the s.d. of the NLS proportion estimates. (c) Genomic distances between 11 contemporary human populations and Neanderthals; blue, genome wide; red, LCP genes. The maximal bar length corresponds to a NLS frequency of 30%. Placement of ASW and CEU individuals in sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe, respectively, reflects their approximate historical geographical origins rather than their present location [Credit: Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms4584]
Although Neanderthals are extinct, fragments of their genomes persist in modern humans. These shared regions are unevenly distributed across the genome and some regions are particularly enriched with Neanderthal variants.

An international team of researchers led by Philipp Khaitovich of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, China, show that DNA sequences shared between modern humans and Neanderthals are specifically enriched in genes involved in the metabolic breakdown of lipids.

This sharing of genes is seen mainly in contemporary humans of European descent and may have given a selective advantage to the individuals with the Neanderthal variants.

Did Europeans get fat from Neanderthals?
Skeleton of a neanderthal (left) and a modern human (right)
[Credit: © Ian Tattersall]
The researchers analyzed the distribution of Neanderthal variants in the genomes of eleven contemporary human populations of African, Asian and European descent.

They found that genes involved in the lipid synthesis contained a particularly high number of Neanderthal variants in contemporary humans of European origin, but not in Asians and Africans.

"These sequences show signs of recent positive selection," says Philipp Khaitovich of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai, China. "This may indicate that they give modern humans carrying the Neanderthal genotype a selective advantage."

Analyzing the influence of Neanderthal variants on lipid processing in modern humans, the researchers further found recent evolutionary changes in lipid concentration and expression of metabolic enzymes in brains of humans of European origin.

"We don't know what these lipid concentration changes do to the brain, but the fact that Neanderthal variants might have changed our brain composition has interesting implications," says Philipp Khaitovich. Further work is needed, however, in order to fully assess the potential functional effects of these changes.

The study has been published in Nature Communications.

Source: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft [April 01, 2014]
TANN

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1 comment :

  1. ...yes. fire Drill began in Iberia-Euro-Dordgne, Chauvet Pont d'Arc
    cave for Tonalamatl(35k-22k BCE), language Nauatl/$Water PIE
    (cave level) in same area, e.g., Provanzal/Basque, 400 BCE horizon
    for humanoid settlement.

    ReplyDelete


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