Allele-Specific Gene Expression

Sure, you get half of your genes from your mother and half from your father, but science may have just found that dad’s genetic goo is responsible for more than mom’s, at least in matters of health.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina, School of Medicine did the study on mice, and was the first study to indicate that suggest that mammals are more similar to their fathers than their mothers.

It’s called “allele-specific gene expression”, and it’s crazy wafers.

Scientists knew that there are 95 genes that exhibit a “parent-of-origin” effect, drawing their data from mom or dad. But this new study, appearing in the latest issue of Nature Genetics, says that there are “are thousands of other genes that have a novel parent-of-origin effect.”

These parent-of-origin effects show dad’s genes as more dominant, particularly in terms of ailments such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, schizophrenia and cancers.

The process is a little complicated for non-sciencey types:

The researchers took three different sub-species of mice descended from three different continents, and bred them to create nine different types of offspring. Right? Got it? Nine from three? Math?

The nine offspring types were then used as both a father and mother for another generation of mice. The researchers then let the mice reach adulthood, and measured genetic expressions within their tissues.

Researchers were able to quantify how much genetic material was inherited from paternal and maternal parents. They found an imbalance which made the genes in their brain more like dad’s. What that means is that the mice were more likely to take on their father’s traits. So in human terms: if you get a gene from your dad – for example, a genetic mutation of skin cancer – you’re more likely to actually develop cancer than if your mother had skin cancer and passed it along to you.

Though the study was done with mice, the researchers say that the phenomena should apply to all mammals, including humans.

“We conclude that, as with humans, pervasive regulatory variation influences complex genetic traits in mice and provide a new resource toward understanding the genetic control of transcription in mammals,” the researchers wrote in their study. And if you know what any of that means, I applaud you.