Beneficial liaisons | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News

Beneficial liaisons

Modern populations acquired important immune system DNA from ancient, cross-species breeding

By
1:58pm, August 25, 2011

Sleeping around can expose you to diseases, but, at least in the course of human evolution, it may help you fight ’em. New research suggests that thousands of years ago humans acquired important immune system genes via liaisons with some of our extinct hominid cousins, the Neandertals and Denisovans. These dalliances may have allowed modern humans to persist in regions where unfamiliar pathogens may have otherwise killed them.

Many modern human populations appear to have the same versions of certain immune system genes found in those archaic relatives, a team of researchers reports online August 25 in Science. The Neandertal and Denisovan versions are most prevalent in modern populations in Europe and Asia. Because modern African populations harbor little to none of these archaic gene variants, the discovery suggests that humans acquired them after heading out of Africa and running into Neandertals and Denisovans in Europe and Asia.

“It’s

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content