The Origins Of Lactase Persistence And Ongoing Convergent Evolution

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Keller, Beth A
Beta galactosidase; Convergence (Biology); Evolution (Biology); Genetic polymorphisms; Lactose intolerance; Natural selection; Pastoral systems
thesis / dissertation description
As a primary factor in human evolution, natural selection is an important component of genetic research. Studies of lactase persistence suggest that positive selection has played a powerful role in the adaptation to a lifelong consumption of fresh milk. Using multiple research studies of lactase persistence and suspected corresponding single nucleotide genetic polymorphisms, this study combines data sources to determine whether evidence exists for natural selection of a specific cytosine-to-thymine genetic mutation located 13,910 base pairs (T-13910) upstream from the lactase gene. This polymorphism has potential to be a causal element for lactase persistence, and data suggest that natural selection has played a role in the rising frequency and distribution of this allele, if only in some regions. European and neighboring regions appear to have the highest frequencies with little or no frequency in Asia, Africa and Indonesia; however the presence of lactase persistence in those areas suggests convergent evolution may be occurring on a phenotypic level. To examine this possibility several other identified polymorphisms in the same region as the T-13910 will be included in this study