(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) --An international team of scientists lead by researchers at UC Davis Health System has found that, with respect to genetics, modern Europeans fall into two groups: a Northern group and a Southern, or Mediterranean one. The findings, published in the Sept. 14 edition of Public Library of Science Genetics (www.plos.org), are important because they provide a method for scientists to take into account European ancestry when looking for genes involved in diseases.
"Until now, little has been known about the distribution of genetic variation in European populations and how much that distribution matters in terms of doing genetic studies," said Michael Seldin, chair of the Rowe Program in Genetics (http://roweprogram.ucdavis.edu/) at UC Davis Health System. "Now we will be able to control for these differences in European populations in our efforts to find genes that cause common diseases."
Seldin, who is also a professor of biochemistry and professor of medicine at UC Davis, worked with his colleagues to compare genetic data for 928 individuals. They looked at 5,700 single nucleotide polymorphisms, called SNPs or "snips." SNPs are changes in which a single base in the DNA differs from the usual base at that position. Millions of SNP's have been cataloged in the human genome. Some SNPs cause disease, like the one responsible for sickle cell anemia. Other SNPs are normal variations in the genome. People who share ancestry will have many SNPs in common.
Seldin and his group set out to discover which SNPs among Europeans could account for shared common ancestry. "We saw a clustering of individuals that come from either southern Europe or derived from populations that left southern Europe, or the Mediterranean, in the last 2,000 years," Seldin said. This allowed the group to identify a set of 400 informative SNP markers that scientists could now u
Contact: Michael Seldin
University of California, Davis - Health System