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Journal Articles BioEssays Year : 2023

Proposed mechanism for the selection of lactase persistence in childhood

Abstract

Abstract Lactase persistence/persistent (LP), the ability to express the lactase enzyme in adults, is one of the most strongly selected phenotypes in humans. It is encoded by at least five genetic variants that have rapidly become widespread in various human populations. The underlying selective mechanism is not clear however, because dairy products in general are well tolerated in adults, even by lactase non‐persistence/persistent (LNP) individuals. Cultural adaptations to milk consumption, notably fermentation and transformation, which can provide most of the energy (protein, fat) to both LP and LNP individuals without any associated cost seem to have been common in ancient societies. Here, we propose that selection for LP occurred through increased glucose/galactose (energy) from fresh milk intake in early childhood, a crucial period for growth. At the age of weaning indeed, lactase activity has already begun to decline in LNP individuals so the gain in energy from fresh milk by LP children represents a major fitness increase.
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Dates and versions

hal-04234542 , version 1 (10-10-2023)

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Alexandre Fabre, Anne Fabre, Céline Bon, Paul Guerry, Laure Ségurel. Proposed mechanism for the selection of lactase persistence in childhood. BioEssays, 2023, 45 (7), ⟨10.1002/bies.202200243⟩. ⟨hal-04234542⟩
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