A study to be published in the February 2007 issue of Nature Genetics reveals a significant ethnic variation in gene expression. The levels of expression of more than 25% of the genes tested in an initial survey differed between populations, and could explain susceptibility to common diseases.
Although gene expression levels are known to differ among individuals owing to genetic variants that influence gene expression, differences between populations have not been systematically assessed. Richard Spielman, Vivian Cheung and colleagues assessed gene expression levels for more than 4,000 genes in cells derived from individuals of European, Japanese, and Chinese ancestry. More than 1,000 showed modest, but nonetheless significant, differences in levels of expression among the groups. The Japanese and Chinese levels of expression were similar enough that they could be grouped together.
The authors go on to show that variation in levels of gene expression can be associated with particular genetic variants. The differences in gene expression, they note, can be explained by the differing frequencies of these genetic variants in the populations. Susceptibility to common diseases is likely to be influenced by levels of gene expression. As such, the authors conclude that the varying incidence of certain diseases among populations may be due in part to the population differences in gene expression identified here.
Richard Spielman (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Vivian Cheung (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Genetics press release.
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