Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Examining the source behind Sherpa mountain fitness

Date:
September 18, 2013
Source:
Molecular Biology and Evolution
Summary:
The Sherpa population in Tibet is world-renowned for their extraordinary high-altitude fitness, as most famously demonstrated by Tenzing Norgay's ability to conquer Mount Everest alongside Sir Edmund Hillary. The genetic adaptation behind this fitness has been a topic of hot debate in human evolution, with recent full genome sequencing efforts completed to look for candidate genes necessary for low oxygen adaptation. However, few have looked at the Sherpa population by sequencing their mitochondrial genomes -- the powerhouse of every cell that helps determine the degree of respiratory fitness by providing 90 percent of the human body's energy demand, as well as controlling the metabolic rate and use of oxygen.

The Sherpa population in Tibet is world-renowned for their extraordinary high-altitude fitness, as most famously demonstrated by Tenzing Norgay's ability to conquer Mount Everest alongside Sir Edmund Hillary. The genetic adaptation behind this fitness has been a topic of hot debate in human evolution, with recent full genome sequencing efforts completed to look for candidate genes necessary for low oxygen adaptation. However, few have looked at the Sherpa population by sequencing their mitochondrial genomes -- the powerhouse of every cell that helps determine the degree of respiratory fitness by providing 90 percent of the human body's energy demand, as well as controlling the metabolic rate and use of oxygen.

Unlike genomic DNA, the mitochondrial genome is unique inherited only through the mother, is small in size, and has a high mutation rate. Researchers Longli Kang, Li Jin et al. have sequenced 76 Sherpa individuals' complete mitochondrial genomes living in Zhangmu Town, Tibet, and found two mutations that were specific to the Sherpa population. The authors suggest that variants for one recent mutation in particular that was introduced into the Sherpa population about 1,500 years ago, A4e3a, that may be an important adaptation for low oxygen environments, or hypoxic conditions. This mutation is found in an "entry enzyme" stage in the mitochondrial respiratory complex, which may explain the importance of the role of mitochondria in the Sherpa population's ability to adapt to the extreme Himalayan environment.

The authors also shed light on the demographic history of Sherpa population size over evolutionary time, showing a significant expansion from 3,000 to 23,000 around 50,000 years ago, followed by a very recent bottleneck in the past several hundred years that reduced the population from 10,000 to 2,400, matching known historical migration patterns.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Molecular Biology and Evolution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. Kang, H.-X. Zheng, F. Chen, S. Yan, K. Liu, Z. Qin, L. Liu, Z. Zhao, L. Li, X. Wang, Y. He, L. Jin. MtDNA lineage expansions in Sherpa population suggest adaptive evolution in Tibetan highlands. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/mst147

Cite This Page:

Molecular Biology and Evolution. "Examining the source behind Sherpa mountain fitness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918205142.htm>.
Molecular Biology and Evolution. (2013, September 18). Examining the source behind Sherpa mountain fitness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918205142.htm
Molecular Biology and Evolution. "Examining the source behind Sherpa mountain fitness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918205142.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) Nine-month-old Wyatt Scott was born with a rare disorder called congenital trismus, which prevents him from opening his mouth. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins