Jun 9, 2020

Why and when was lactase persistence selected for? Insights from Central Asian herders and ancient DNA

PLoS Biology
Laure SégurelEvelyne Heyer

Abstract

The genetic adaptation of humans to the consumption of milk from dairying animals is one of the most emblematic cases of recent human evolution. While the phenotypic change under selection, lactase persistence (LP), is known, the evolutionary advantage conferred to persistent individuals remains obscure. One informative but underappreciated observation is that not all populations whose ancestors had access to milk genetically adapted to become lactase persistent. Indeed, Central Asian herders are mostly lactase nonpersistent, despite their significant dietary reliance on dairy products. Investigating the temporal dynamic of the -13.910:C>T Eurasian mutation associated with LP, we found that, after its emergence in Ukraine 5,960 before present (BP), the T allele spread between 4,000 BP and 3,500 BP throughout Eurasia, from Spain to Kazakhstan. The timing and geographical progression of the mutation coincides well with the migration of steppe populations across and outside of Europe. After 3,000 BP, the mutation strongly increased in frequency in Europe, but not in Asia. We propose that Central Asian herders have adapted to milk consumption culturally, by fermentation, and/or by colonic adaptation, rather than genetically. Given ...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Asians
DNA
LCT
Geographic
Migration, Cell
Alleles
Grassland
Lactase Persistence
Beta-Galactosidase
Intestines

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