Saturday, January 24, 2009

Genetics of lipid profiles in European and African Americans

Genetic Differences between the Determinants of Lipid Profile Phenotypes in African and European Americans: The Jackson Heart Study
Rahul C. Deo, David Reich, Arti Tandon, Ermeg Akylbekova, Nick Patterson, Alicja Waliszewska, Sekar Kathiresan, Daniel Sarpong, Herman A. Taylor, Jr., James G. Wilson
PLoS Genetics 5(1): e1000342.
Abstract: Genome-wide association analysis in populations of European descent has recently found more than a hundred genetic variants affecting risk for common disease. An open question, however, is how relevant the variants discovered in Europeans are to other populations. To address this problem for cardiovascular phenotypes, we studied a cohort of 4,464 African Americans from the Jackson Heart Study (JHS), in whom we genotyped both a panel of 12 recently discovered genetic variants known to predict lipid profile levels in Europeans and a panel of up to 1,447 ancestry informative markers allowing us to determine the African ancestry proportion of each individual at each position in the genome. Focusing on lipid profiles—HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C), LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C), and triglycerides (TG)—we identified the lipoprotein lipase (LPL) locus as harboring variants that account for interethnic variation in HDL-C and TG. In particular, we identified a novel common variant within LPL that is strongly associated with TG (p = 2.7×10−6) and explains nearly 1% of the variability in this phenotype, the most of any variant in African Americans to date. Strikingly, the extensively studied “gain-of-function” S447X mutation at LPL, which has been hypothesized to be the major determinant of the LPL-TG genetic association and is in trials for human gene therapy, has a significantly diminished strength of biological effect when it is found on a background of African rather than European ancestry. These results suggest that there are other, yet undiscovered variants at the locus that are truly causal (and are in linkage disequilibrium with S447X) or that work synergistically with S447X to modulate TG levels. Finally, we find systematically lower effect sizes for the 12 risk variants discovered in European populations on the African local ancestry background in JHS, highlighting the need for caution in the use of genetic variants for risk assessment across different populations.

1 comment:

.marioV said...

Nick Chater,
Florencia Reali,
and Morten H. Christiansen
Restrictions on biological adaptation in language evolution
PNAS published online before print January 21, 2009, doi:10.1073/pnas.0807191106
Full Text (PDF)


Language acquisition and processing are governed by genetic constraints. A crucial unresolved question is how far these genetic constraints have coevolved with language, perhaps resulting in a highly specialized and species-specific language “module,” and how much language acquisition and processing redeploy preexisting cognitive machinery. In the present work, we explored the circumstances under which genes encoding language-specific properties could have coevolved with language itself. We present a theoretical model, implemented in computer simulations, of key aspects of the interaction of genes and language. Our results show that genes for language could have coevolved only with highly stable aspects of the linguistic environment; a rapidly changing linguistic environment does not provide a stable target for natural selection. Thus, a biological endowment could not coevolve with properties of language that began as learned cultural conventions, because cultural conventions change much more rapidly than genes. We argue that this rules out the possibility that arbitrary properties of language, including abstract syntactic principles governing phrase structure, case marking, and agreement, have been built into a “language module” by natural selection. The genetic basis of human language acquisition and processing did not coevolve with language, but primarily predates the emergence of language. As suggested by Darwin, the fit between language and its underlying mechanisms arose because language has evolved to fit the human brain, rather than the reverse.

Baldwin effect
cultural evolution
language acquisition
1To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

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