Geneticists have identified a number of genes, for a variety of functions, that show the hallmarks of having been favoured by natural selection in different populations. The researchers identify two genes in a Nigerian population that show evidence of having been shaped by evolution. They also find similar hallmarks in two genes involved in skin pigmentation in people of European ancestry, and two genes involved in hair-follicle development in Asians.
The search, carried out by Pardis Sabeti and colleagues and described in Nature, aimed to spot regions of minimal genetic variation within populations - evidence that the gene sequence in question was preserved by the effects of natural selection within that population. In compiling their results, the researchers took advantage of new data from the International HapMap Project, a vast catalogue of human genetic variations that should help to pinpoint the genetic hallmarks of many diseases. These new HapMap data, generated by an international consortium of researchers behind the project, are also published in this week's Nature.
The consortium's results add details of 2.1 million newly described points in the genome where the genetic code varies by just a single letter from person to person, bringing the overall tally of mutations documented by the project to well over 3 million. The project uses genetic samples from 270 people, from Nigeria, Utah, China and Japan.
Pardis Sabeti (Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Gilean McVean (University of Oxford, UK)
(C) Nature press release.
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