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J Immunol. 2008 Jul 15;181(2):1315-22.

Balancing selection is the main force shaping the evolution of innate immunity genes.

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1
Departament de Ciències Experimentals i de la Salut, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Unitat de Biologia Evolutiva, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

Abstract

The evolutionarily recent geographic expansion of humans, and the even more recent development of large, relatively dense human settlements, has exposed our species to new pathogenic environments. Potentially lethal pathogens are likely to have exerted important selective pressures on our genome, so immunity genes can be expected to show molecular signatures of the adaptation of human populations to these recent conditions. While genes related to the acquired immunity system have indeed been reported to show traces of local adaptation, little is known about the response of the innate immunity system. In this study, we analyze the variability patterns in different human populations of fifteen genes related to innate immunity. We have used both single nucleotide polymorphism and sequence data, and through the analysis of interpopulation differentiation, the linkage disequilibrium pattern, and intrapopulation diversity, we have discovered some signatures of positive and especially balancing selection in these genes, thus confirming the importance of the immune system genetic plasticity in the evolutionary adaptive process. Interestingly, the strongest evidence is found in three TLR genes and CD14. These innate immunity genes play a pivotal role, being involved in the primary recognition of pathogens. In general, more evidences of selection appear in the European populations, in some case possibly related to severe population specific pressures. However, we also describe evidence from African populations, which may reflect parallel or long-term selective forces acting in different geographic areas.

PMID:
18606686
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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