Ethnicity tied to gene expression

SNP-driven differences in gene expression help distinguish ethnic groups

Melissa Lee Phillips
Jan 8, 2007
Ethnicity stems not just from differences in genetic sequence, but also from differences in the expression of genes shared by ethnic groups, according to a new study in Nature Genetics. The authors found that 25 percent of genes show different expression levels in Asian and European individuals, and single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in regulatory elements likely account for many of these variations. "It's exciting to see that there is some easy explanation for expression differences between populations," said Pui-Yan Kwok, of the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study.Previous work has revealed polymorphisms that are more prevalent in some ethnic groups than in others. Some of these allele frequency differences have no known functional significance, while others are implicated in diseases such as cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs disease.To see if some of these polymorphisms could cause differences in gene expression levels,...