In order to understand this unusual pattern, the team conducted additional genomic analyses, in collaboration with Svante Pbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and discovered that the SLC16A11 sequence associated with risk of type 2 diabetes is found in a newly sequenced Neanderthal genome. Analyses indicate that the higher risk version of SLC16A11 was introduced into modern humans through mixing with Neanderthal.
Inheriting a gene from Neanderthal ancestors is actually not uncommon: approximately 1 to 2 percent of the sequences present in all modern day humans outside of Africa were inherited from Neanderthals. Importantly, neither people with diabetes nor populations of Native American or Latin American ancestry have an excess of Neanderthal DNA relative to other populations.
Since this is the first time SLC16A11 has been highlighted as playing a role in human disease, little information was previously available about its function. The Nature paper reveals some initial clues about its possible connection to type 2 diabetes. SLC16A11 is part of a family of genes that code for proteins that transport metabolites molecules involved in the body's various chemical reactions. The SIGMA Type 2 Diabetes Consortium paper reports that SLC16A11 is expressed in the liver, in a cellular structure called the endoplasmic reticulum.
The researchers went on to show that altering the levels of the SLC16A11 protein can change the amount of a type of fat that has previously been implicated in the risk of diabetes. These findings have led the team to hypothesize that SLC16A11 may be involved in the transport of an unknown metabolite that affects fat levels in cel
|Contact: Nicole Davis|
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard