By KATHLEEN MCGEEDAssociated PressScientists are using gene mapping to uncover how genes influence behaviour and how they are shared among family members.
In a landmark paper published in Nature Genetics, they mapped genes involved in the formation of a common genetic signature among pairs of individuals that are closely related.
They also looked at how the signature changes with age.
The researchers discovered a gene called RhoGAP1 that codes for the protein adhesion molecule.
The discovery means scientists can now begin to map how the structure of this molecule is linked to behaviour, the researchers said.
“RhoGap1 is essential for the development of the gut microbiota and is a key regulator of gut motility, including the transmission of pathogen signals, immune responses, and immune tolerance,” said lead author Daniel Baehr of the University of California, Davis, in a statement.
“We can now map the role of RhoGs in the development and maintenance of the complex microbial communities we have evolved in our guts, which have a profound impact on our health and the quality of life.”
They identified another gene, RhoB, which codes for a protein called cilia, which regulates the movement of the bacteria and is also essential for motility.
“The discovery of a single gene in this group of genes is a novel insight that opens the door to a new understanding of how the composition of our gut microbiota affects the health of the microbiome,” Bae.
Baehr and colleagues found the genes RhoC, RheB, and RheA were associated with the development, maintenance, and transmission of the bacterial Rho family of proteins.
“These findings provide an important insight into how gut microbes interact with the host environment and how their interaction affects our health,” Bauch said.
The study also found that the genetic signatures of pairwise pairings varied with age, with older individuals showing stronger genetic correlations with their mates.
“This is important because it suggests that we may need to understand the relationships among genetic signatures to understand how individuals respond to environmental challenges,” said co-author Jason M. Miller, also of UC Davis.
Miller said that RhoS, RhGAP, and GAP1 are genes that may play a key role in determining the fitness of the offspring, and that this could help in understanding how genetic variation affects the lifespan of offspring.
“It is conceivable that genetic variation could affect the ability of offspring to survive on a diet of highly nutrient-dense diets, which is a common challenge for species facing increasing challenges of resource scarcity,” he said.
In the future, Baeh and colleagues plan to look at how genes can be used to predict the risk of diseases.
“Understanding how genetics influences the health and well-being of humans is an exciting frontier in medicine,” said study author John F. Liao of the Institute of Medical Biology, Singapore.
“But until now, there has been very little direct evidence that genes and their associations with behaviours and diseases influence each other.”(Reporting by Kathlee McCgee; Editing by Peter Cooney)