EvoS Seminar Series: Trade-offs That Shape Our Genomes: Surviving Starvation and Microbes

Monday, March 13 5:15pm ET / 10:15pm UTC

Evolutionary Studies (EVoS)

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Free seminar talk with Q&A

Zoom Link: https://binghamton.zoom.us/j/98942256738

A key question in biology is why genomic variation persists in a population for extended
periods. Our recent work showed that many biologically relevant variants have been
segregating among our ancestors for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years.
We argue that trade-offs between metabolic and immune adaptations led to the
maintenance of these common, functional variants in the human genome. One such
variant is the common deletion of the third exon of the growth hormone receptor gene
(GHRd3). This deletion is associated with birth weight, growth after birth, and the time of
puberty. Using population genetics and functional analysis of novel mouse models, we
showed that GHRd3 has evolved as an adaptation to severe malnutrition. We further
found that the organismal effects of GHRd3 are male-specific and appear only under
calorie restriction. Further, we found that disruption of the growth hormone pathway
leads to susceptibility to infectious diseases, but only in males. I will argue in this lecture
that these evolutionary trade-offs underlie a considerable portion of the genetic basis of
disease susceptibility in humans.

Omer Gokcumen is an associate professor in the Biological Sciences Department at
University at Buffalo. His research focuses on evolutionary and anthropological
genomics — studying how humans evolved and how they differ from nonhuman
primates and mammals. He received his B.S. in Molecular Biology and Genetics from
Bogazici University in Istanbul in 2002. He then earned her Ph.D. in anthropology at the
University of Pennslyvania in 2008. After a 5-year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard
Medical School, Gokcumen started his laboratory in Buffalo. Gokcumen and his team
have published over 75 articles on several areas of human and mammalian evolutionary
genomics. His research has been recognized by several awards and featured in several
popular outlets, including NYT, BBC, Guardian, Scientific American, New Scientist, and

Accompanying Reading:
Saitou, M., Resendez, S., Pradhan, A.J., Wu, F., Lie, N.C., Hall, N.J., Zhu, Q.,
Reinholdt, L., Satta, Y., Speidel, L., Nakagome Shigeki, Hanchard, N.A., Churchill, G.,
Lee, C., Atilla-Gokcumen, G.E., Mu, X., Gokcumen, O., 2021. Sex-specific phenotypic
effects and evolutionary history of an ancient polymorphic deletion of the human growth
hormone receptor. Science Advances 7(39), eabi4476.

Link: https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/sciadv.abi4476