(ORDO NEWS) — Geneticists have found that the ancestors of the Indians inherited the characteristic gene variation, which determines the shape and thickness of the lips, from the Denisovans – ancient people who lived in Altai and Central Asia during the Ice Age. This was announced on Friday by the press service of the University College London (UCL) with reference to an article in the journal Science Advances.
“We were the first to discover a version of a gene that our ancestors inherited from ancient people and which at the same time affects the appearance of the face of modern inhabitants of the planet. Its discovery became possible only thanks to the fact that we began to study the genomes of people outside Europe. In the DNA of modern Europeans traces of the Denisovans, while the Indians have them, “said Pierre Fo, a researcher at the University of Marseille (France), quoted by the press service of UCL.
Geneticists and molecular biologists in recent years have begun to actively study genes that determine or affect the characteristics of the face and body, including height, weight, tendency to be overweight, physical strength and other characteristics. Interest is associated with the fact that violations in the work of these DNA regions lead to congenital diseases and serious developmental defects.
As the discoveries of recent years show, the number of such genes is approaching several hundred or even thousands. For example, scientists recently discovered that four genes at once – PAX1, DCHS2, RUNX2 and GLI3 – determine the shape of the nose, and the sharpness of the chin depends on the EDAR gene.
Fo and his colleagues examined data collected in five Latin American countries – Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru – by the CANDELA genomic consortium. This project involved 6,200 indigenous people who agreed to give scientists their DNA and photographs of their faces and bodies.
Denisovans’ genetic heritage
Using these images, the scientists prepared a list of 59 different variations in the appearance of the project participants (the size and thickness of the lips, the shape of the chin and eyebrows, the length of the nose, etc.). Comparing sets of small mutations in the DNA of Indians, scientists tried to find the genes that determined these features of appearance.
In total, they managed to identify 32 regions of the genome, variations in which influenced one or more features in the appearance of the Indians. Nine of them were previously unknown to scientists, and the remaining 23 were discovered in the course of past genetic research.
The attention of scientists was attracted by the TBX15 gene, which is part of a group of nine previously unknown DNA regions that determine the shape of the face. In the past, this gene has already been linked to how a person’s face looks, but Fo and his colleagues were able to clarify that it primarily affects the thickness and shape of the lips.
One of the versions of this gene (widespread among the indigenous inhabitants of the New World and responsible for the characteristic Asian shape and thickness of the lips) was inherited by the Indians from the Denisovans – ancient people who lived in Altai and Central Asia 50-300 thousand years ago.
“This gene variation most likely arose as a result of the adaptation of Denisovans to the habitat in which they lived during the glacial era. We hypothesize that it influenced the distribution of fat in their bodies and helped them to better cope with the harsh climate of Central Asia. that this useful version of the TBX15 gene was inherited by the ancestors of the Indians who were in contact with the Denisovans, “summed up Kaustubh Adhikari, a geneticist at UCL, quoted by the university’s press service.
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