Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gene

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Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gene

Postby derpstershernermermer » Sat Mar 31, 2012 12:52 am UTC

Paleoanthropologist John Hawks explains that his version of the androgen receptor gene (which causes baldness after the age of 25) was acquired via recent (~50 kya) admixture with neanderthals (at 1:48):

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEX0oOnVLrk
(I don't think I can post links yet)

The androgen receptor on the X chromosome is the receptor for testosterone, and that has a huge effect on different elements of the body, both in men and in women. One of the things that it does is it, for some people, increases the likelihood of baldness. And so my version of the androgen receptor, I know, is likely to correlate with hair loss after the age of about 25 as it turns out. This is the part of my genome that I share with neanderthals. Among many others. Does that mean that neanderthals maybe, like me, had hair loss? It could be, but we can't yet say because we can't look yet at that phenotypic level. In order to do that it's gonna take comparing how different people with different copies of these actually map out.
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Re: Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gen

Postby Adam Preston » Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:27 pm UTC

May I ask on what you guys' views are on the theory that Neanderthals and humans interbred. I believe we had indefinite, but recently in my Biology class a question regarding the definition of a species came in the context of humans and Neanderthals. Of course species are organisms which cannot interbreed successfully, yet didn't humans and Neanderthals do that?
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Re: Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gen

Postby Angua » Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:33 pm UTC

I think they've redefined Neanderthals as Homo sapiens neanderthalis, while we're homo sapiens sapiens, which would make neanderthals a subspecies, so we could still interbreed.

Species classification has become more precise now that we have DNA analysis - before you had to mainly rely on observation of phenotypic differences and results of breeding.
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Re: Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gen

Postby derpstershernermermer » Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:43 pm UTC

Adam Preston wrote:Of course species are organisms which cannot interbreed successfully, yet didn't humans and Neanderthals do that?


Speciation is not defined by an instantaneous transition away from reproductive viability. There are actually stable "hybrid zones" between different species that allow advantageous mutations to spread further than the immediate clade of the original carrier. Humans and neanderthals were distinct enough to have very, very different brain organization:

Evolution of the base of the brain in highly encephalized human species (Dec 13, 2011)

• Two genetically different evolutionary lineages, Neanderthals and modern humans, have produced similarly large-brained human species. […] Three-dimensional geometric morphometric analyses of endobasicranial shape reveal previously undocumented details of evolutionary changes in Homo sapiens. Larger olfactory bulbs, relatively wider orbitofrontal cortex, relatively increased and forward projecting temporal lobe poles appear unique to modern humans. Such brain reorganization, beside physical consequences for overall skull shape, might have contributed to the evolution of H. sapiens' learning and social capacities, in which higher olfactory functions and its cognitive, neurological behavioral implications could have been hitherto underestimated factors.

• The significantly different evolutionary patterns in the modern human and Neanderthal lineages are shown in Figure 5. In H. sapiens cribriform expansion has occurred posteriorly. […] Cribriform plate increase is well observed comparing mean shapes of modern humans with its putative ancestors (both early Homo in Figure 4, and Mid-Pleistocene humans in Supplementary Fig. S2) but also with Neanderthals. The size of the cribriform plate is driven by the size of the olfactory bulbs due to coordinated embryological development. Adult morphology of the cribriform plate is achieved early in ontogeny (4 years in humans and probably even earlier in Neanderthals due to faster maturation rates). However, due to this very early maturation ontogenetic changes of adjacent and surrounding facial structures, growing much longer than the cribriform plate, are very unlikely to influence cribriform morphology by craniofacial integration. Moreover, the fact that large-faced Neanderthals showed smaller cribriform plates supports an interpretation in terms of neurological factors rather than by craniofacial integration. Furthermore, its specific increase in H. sapiens implies a unique evolutionary condition of a large cribriform plate atop a nasal cavity within an extremely reduced face. After all, nasal cavity and facial sizes are more related to respiration and mastication than to olfaction.

• The coincident evolutionary changes of structures comprising olfactory neuro-circuitry could be a novel feature in the evolution of H. sapiens, and, if confirmed, may have influenced some features of human behaviour. The olfactory neurological circuitry is highly integrated in cerebral, behavioural and immunological functions. Following the initial sensory process, axons from thousands of cells expressing odour receptors in the mucosa of the nasal cavity converge via the cribriform plate in the olfactory bulb. From there, olfactory signals are transmitted to the olfactory cortex (rhinal, pyriform cortex, medioventral to temporal lobe poles) and become relayed, on the one hand to higher cortical regions, where conscious thought processes are handled, and on the other hand to the limbic system, where emotional context is generated. Olfactory information thus projects to regions critical for mating, emotions, and fear (amygdala) as well as for motivation, high-level cognitive and emotional processes (orbital prefrontal cortex). It, thus, serves a role in central nervous system function above and beyond smell. In that respect, olfaction differs from other sensory modalities. Odour immediately triggers strong emotional evocations and provokes higher memory retention ('Marcel Proust Phenomenon') due to anatomical overlap of structures involved in memory process and olfaction pathways. Such associations with cognitive processes have been termed by Savic 'higher olfactory functions'. Smell, and linked higher olfactory functions, can thus be involved in modulating many different aspects of human behavior. It has been reported that people who are congenitally deaf or blind have intact reproductive–social capacities, whereas individuals with congenital anosmia usually do not.

• Moreover, olfaction has been linked to the immunological system. It is speculated that odour might be an important factor of attractiveness, that is, a mate selection criterion in human females, possibly selected for improving immunological fitness of the offspring, for example, in the case of the major histocompatibility complex [MHC]. Other recent research suggests that humans are also able to detect the 'scent of fear', potentially important in human social interaction.

Our findings support previous hypotheses that modern humans show a different evolutionary trajectory because of the remaining significant shape differences between Neanderthals and H. sapiens after allometric size adjustment.

• Different evolutionary patterns likewise emerge from comparative genetic analyses, which—among other aspects—have shown evidence for positive selection of genes related to cognitive development, that occurred after the split of H. sapiens and Neanderthals. The same applies to roughly 4% of the 78 amino-acid configurations, which—ancestral in Neanderthals—are directly related to the olfactory system. Differences in the configuration of the olfactory sensory apparatus, and its previously discussed involvement into higher olfactory functions in social, and cognitive (memory) aspects could be part of this evolutionary process.

• Although different regions of the prefrontal cortex (frontal lobes) have been associated with higher integrative and social functions, (for example, decision making), regions of the temporal lobes are traditionally related to visual memory, language and to theory of mind. All of them are compatible with higher olfactory functions.


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http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v2/n12/full/ncomms1593.html


Also relevant:

Orbital prefrontal cortex volume predicts social network size: an imaging study of individual differences in humans (Feb 1, 2012)
Path analysis in a sample of 40 healthy adult humans revealed a significant linear relationship between orbital (but not dorsal) [prefrontal cortex] volume and the size of subjects' social networks that was mediated by individual intentionality (mentalizing) competences. The results support the social brain hypothesis by indicating a relationship between PFC volume and social network size that applies within species, and, more importantly, indicates that the relationship is mediated by social cognitive skills.

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http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/01/27/rspb.2011.2574.abstract
"The genetic pathways involved translate not only to other insects but to other species including humans…This is exciting because of the potential it holds for addressing concerns that have to do with diseases like schizophrenia and autism." -Dr. Joel Levine (PNAS interview, 2/4/13)
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Re: Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gen

Postby derpstershernermermer » Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:49 pm UTC

Angua wrote:I think they've redefined Neanderthals as Homo sapiens neanderthalis, while we're homo sapiens sapiens, which would make neanderthals a subspecies, so we could still interbreed.


Not exactly:

A Proper Study for Mankind: Analogies From the Papionin Monkeys and Their Implications for Human Evolution (2001)

Another source of phylogenetic uncertainty is the possibility of gene-flow by occasional hybridization between hominins belonging to ecologically and adaptively distinct species or even genera. Although the evidence is unsatisfactorily sparse, it suggests that among catarrhines generally, regardless of major chromosomal rearrangements, intersterility is roughly proportional to time since cladogenetic separation. On a papionin analogy, especially the crossability of Papiohamadryas with Macacamulatta and Theropithecus gelada, crossing between extant hominine genera is unlikely to produce viable and fertile offspring,but any hominine species whose ancestries diverged less than 4 ma previously may well have been able to produce hybrid offspring that could, by backcrossing, introduce alien genes with the potential of spreading if advantageous. Selection against maladaptive traits would maintain adaptive complexes against occasional genetic infiltration, and the latter does not justify reducing the hybridizing forms to a conspecific or congeneric rank.


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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11786995
"The genetic pathways involved translate not only to other insects but to other species including humans…This is exciting because of the potential it holds for addressing concerns that have to do with diseases like schizophrenia and autism." -Dr. Joel Levine (PNAS interview, 2/4/13)
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Re: Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gen

Postby ahammel » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:27 pm UTC

I would add that it's not especially useful to extend the biological species concept* to palaeontology, as it is not, in general, possible to tell whether two extinct organisms could interbreed.

*No interbreeding == good species.
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Re: Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gen

Postby derpstershernermermer » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:57 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:I would add that it's not especially useful to extend the biological species concept* to palaeontology, as it is not, in general, possible to tell whether two extinct organisms could interbreed.


Yes, but in this case scientists are now reasonably certain that there was significant interbreeding between humans and at least three archaics:
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaic_human_admixture_with_modern_Homo_sapiens


Discover Magazine Blogs - The bush & the bramble of the human family:
I argue that it’s most useful to reconceptualize “human” as an ecological niche, rather than a descent group. All the confusion as to whether Neandertals, or any other group of divergent hominins, were, or weren’t, “humans like us,” exists in the context of the idea that “humans like us” are a very specific and sui generis clade with special traits. I think “we” need to get a little off our high horse here.

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http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/12/the-bush-the-bramble/


Also relevant:

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http://lesswrong.com/lw/28k/the_psychological_diversity_of_mankind/
"The genetic pathways involved translate not only to other insects but to other species including humans…This is exciting because of the potential it holds for addressing concerns that have to do with diseases like schizophrenia and autism." -Dr. Joel Levine (PNAS interview, 2/4/13)
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Re: Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gen

Postby ahammel » Sun Apr 01, 2012 5:00 am UTC

derpstershernermermer wrote:
ahammel wrote:I would add that it's not especially useful to extend the biological species concept* to palaeontology, as it is not, in general, possible to tell whether two extinct organisms could interbreed.


Yes, but in this case scientists are now reasonably certain that there was significant interbreeding between humans and at least three archaics:

I know, but this is a special case where we do DNA sequencing on the extinct organism in question. This is very rarely possible, so it makes more sense to stick with the "it's a species if the paleontologist says it is" method.
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Re: Baldness, Neanderthal DNA, and the Androgen Receptor Gen

Postby Copper Bezel » Sun Apr 01, 2012 6:47 am UTC

Interesting. Is that because we assume that we'd probably find the same level of admixture in other species if we had the opportunity?
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