Genetics of Human Phenotypic Variability - Searching for Disease Risk Factors along Evolutionary Paths

Wolfgang Sadee
Department of Pharmacology, The Ohio State University

(April 26, 2010 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM)

Genetics of Human Phenotypic Variability - Searching for Disease Risk Factors along Evolutionary Paths

Abstract

Genome-wide surveys have suggested that genetic variation affecting the regulation of mRNA expression, processing, and translation predominates over those that directly alter the amino acid sequence of encoded proteins. While the latter are easy to spot with use of extensive sequencing, regulatory variants often remain hidden. We have developed a comprehensive approach to detecting such regulatory variants, unexpectedly finding that many key genes involved in disease and drug therapy carry frequent regulatory variants. In parallel, others have pursued genome-wide association studies (GWAS), finding indications of numerous disease risk genes, but the overwhelming majority of the genetic risk remains unknown. Our research program therefore is beginning to address the question as to why the underlying genetic factors remain uncertain. One hypothesis is that regulatory variants could play a key role, but to account for disease risk we must search for frequent alleles that can fill the gap. For such variants to reach high frequency, positive selection during evolution is likely to play a role. In this seminar I will discuss why GWAS may have missed such genes/alleles, and what our approach should be to discover the main disease risk alleles, with an eye on the nexus between evolution, wellness, fitness, and disease.