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Eur J Hum Genet. 2013 Jun;21(6):653-8. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2012.223. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

The role of GHR and IGF1 genes in the genetic determination of African pygmies' short stature.

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CNRS-MNHN-Université Paris 7, UMR 7206 Ecoanthropology and Ethnobiology, Paris, France.


African pygmies are at the lower extreme of human variation in adult stature and many evolutionary hypotheses have been proposed to explain this phenotype. We showed in a recent study that the difference in average stature of about 10 cm observed between contemporary pygmies and neighboring non-pygmies has a genetic component. Nevertheless, the genetic basis of African pygmies' short stature remains unknown. Using a candidate-gene approach, we show that intronic polymorphisms in GH receptor (GHR) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) genes present outlying values of the genetic distance between Baka pygmies and their non-pygmy Nzimé neighbors. We further show that GHR and IGF1 genes have experienced divergent natural selection pressures between pygmies and non-pygmies throughout evolution. In addition, these SNPs are associated with stature in a sample composed of 60 pygmies and 30 non-pygmies and this association remains significant when correcting for population structure for the GHR locus. We conclude that the GHR and IGF1 genes may have a role in African pygmies' short stature. The use of phenotypically contrasted populations is a promising strategy to identify new variants associated with complex traits in humans.

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