Cell | 21 Apr 2018
MA Ilardo, I Moltke, TS Korneliussen, J Cheng, AJ Stern, F Racimo, P de Barros Damgaard, M Sikora, A Seguin-Orlando, S Rasmussen, ICL van den Munckhof, R Ter Horst, LAB Joosten, MG Netea, S Salingkat, R Nielsen and E Willerslev
Understanding the physiology and genetics of human hypoxia tolerance has important medical implications, but this phenomenon has thus far only been investigated in high-altitude human populations. Another system, yet to be explored, is humans who engage in breath-hold diving. The indigenous Bajau people (“Sea Nomads”) of Southeast Asia live a subsistence lifestyle based on breath-hold diving and are renowned for their extraordinary breath-holding abilities. However, it is unknown whether this has a genetic basis. Using a comparative genomic study, we show that natural selection on genetic variants in the PDE10A gene have increased spleen size in the Bajau, providing them with a larger reservoir of oxygenated red blood cells. We also find evidence of strong selection specific to the Bajau on BDKRB2, a gene affecting the human diving reflex. Thus, the Bajau, and possibly other diving populations, provide a new opportunity to study human adaptation to hypoxia tolerance. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
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