London researchers have discovered genetic variation in East Asian and Amerindian populations. She could explain why some Latin Americans have fair skin.
The skin of Latin Americans is of variable color. Until now, it was accepted that these variations were linked to the different ancestors of the populations: Amerindians, Africans or even Europeans. A new study shows that genetic variation could explain these differences in skin color. Their results were published in Nature Communications.
Genes responsible for skin color
The skin color is linked to the genes: variations of these explain why some people have white skin or others black skin. The role of genes is to manage the action of different proteins able to synthesize melanin. For centuries, the genetic heritage of man has evolved, partly according to his place of life. These developments also concern the genes for cutaneous pigmentation.
Common genetic variations between Amerindians and East Asians
Until now, it was accepted that the skin color variations of Latin American populations were related to their different ancestors: Africans, Europeans and Native Americans. In this research, scientists analyzed the pigmentation of 6,000 Latin Americans. They discovered a variation of the MFSD12 gene found only in Native Americans and East Asians. This point common to both populations is certainly linked to the migrations that took place in previous centuries. This variation shows that differences in skin color are not necessarily related to the ancestors of current populations, but to specific genetic characteristics of Latin Americans.
More diversity in studies
The researchers are calling on their colleagues to carry out more studies on genes related to the color of the skin, eyes and hair on all populations. For a long time, the scientific community has been mainly interested in the characteristics of European populations. This study is one of the few to focus on the genetic characteristics of Latin American populations. These results could lead to a better understanding of risk factors related to skin color, particularly in the case of skin cancer.