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Geographic Gene Expression

May 14, 2008

Where people live strongly influences how their genes are expressed.


Geography and gene expression….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Genes may be the blueprint for life, but scientists are discovering that physical environment can substantially effect how often certain genes are turned on. Geneticist Youssef Idaghdour of North Carolina State University and his colleagues compared the gene expression of three populations of Moroccan Berbers: urbanites from the city of Agadir, farmers from the Atlas mountains, and Bedouin nomads of the Sahara desert. He says that while the genetic code of the three populations is indistinguishable, their gene expression differs by up to 30%.

YOUSSEF IDAGHDOUR (North Carolina State University):
Many genes that have been associated to respiratory diseases are highly upregulated in the urban population which makes sense because we know that this urban population is exposed to more pollution, for example.

In fact, he says an urban lifestyle accounted for much of the difference in gene expression. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.