Thursday, January 17, 2008

Is there a fitness advantage to being a CFTR carrier?

This is the type of research that gets me up in the morning. Of course it's very hard to detect what they're trying to detect, but it's definitely worth a shot, and it's good to hear about "negative" results. Related to this, check out my post on a paper about a hypothesized lactose tolerance/cystic fibrosis trade-off.

CFTR mutations and reproductive outcomes in a population isolate

Irene Gallego Romero and Carole Ober
Human Genetics Volume 122, Number 6 / January, 2008
Abstract: Multiple hypotheses have been proposed to explain the high incidence of cystic fibrosis in Caucasian populations. Most rely on a fitness advantage to carriers of CF mutations, either through increased resistance to infectious disease, such as cholera, or through increased fertility. In this study we tested the latter hypothesis in the Hutterites of South Dakota, a genetic isolate with a relatively high CF carrier frequency. Following a population-wide screen for the only two mutations present in the Hutterites (M1101K, ΔF508), we tested for associations between carrier status and measures of fertility. There was no evidence of nonrandom transmission of mutations (P = 0.409) or skewed sex ratios (P = 0.847) in children of carrier parents. Moreover, carrier status was not associated with overall fertility (P = 0.597 for carrier fathers and 0.694 for carrier mothers). Although carrier males’ sibship sizes were larger than carrier females’ sibship sizes (P = 0.049), this was not significant after accounting for multiple testing. Overall, our results suggest that if there is a fertility advantage among CF carriers, it is too small to be detected in our sample (85 carriers out of ∼950 screened), or the effects are confined to ΔF508 carriers, for which there are too few in our sample to test this specific hypothesis.

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