Evolutionary genetics of lactase persistence in Eurasian human populations

De Fanti, Sara (2014) Evolutionary genetics of lactase persistence in Eurasian human populations, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Biodiversità ed evoluzione, 26 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/6555.
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Although ability to digest lactose generally declines after weaning in all mammals, in some human populations it persists also in adult individuals, a condition named lactase persistence (LP). Studies on the prevalence of the LP phenotype in worldwide human populations have shown that the frequency of this trait is highly variable in different ethnic groups, appearing to be positively correlated with the importance of milk in the diet. In particular, several single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the proximity of the LCT gene have been proved to be associated with LP. Nevertheless, few studies have till now analyzed genetic variation underlying LP in a wide set of Eurasian populations and, especially, in the Italian one. In the present study, we thus typed 40 SNPs surrounding the LCT gene in more than 1,000 samples from Italian and Arabic peninsulas to investigate patterns of LP-related genetic diversity in two regions which have played a pivotal role in the recent human evolutionary history according to their geographical position and historical/archaeological records. Our results underline a high and complex variability of the explored genomic region in both studied populations. In particular, a clear diversification of Northern Italian groups from the rest of the peninsula, was observed, with the formers being genetically more similar to Northern European populations than to Southern Italians. These observation are consistent with known decreasing pattern of LP from Northern to Southern Italy and suggest the possibility of an independent evolution of LP-associated genotypes in Northern Italy. A similar scenario was observed in the Arabian peninsula, with Dhofari Arabs from Southern Oman and Yemeni clustering together with respect to Arabs from Northern Oman and the subgroup of Omanis of Asian origin which appeared instead to be genetically closer to Europeans than to the rest of Arabic groups.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
De Fanti, Sara
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze biologiche, biomediche e biotecnologiche
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
Lactase persistence, natural selection, human genome variability.
Data di discussione
8 Maggio 2014

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