Study reveals the favorable effect of Neanderthal gene in child-bearing women

According to a new study, one in three women in Europe has inherited the progesterone receptor from Neanderthals.

The Neanderthal gene is a gene variant linked to fewer miscarriages, increased fertility, and fewer bleedings during the early stage of pregnancy.

Pregnancy

Image Credit: Natalia Deriabina/Shutterstock.com

The study was performed by researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. It was published in the Molecular Biology and Evolution journal.

The progesterone receptor is an example of how favorable genetic variants that were introduced into modern humans by mixing with Neanderthals can have effects in people living today.”

Hugo Zeberg, Researcher, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet

Zeberg also works at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and carried out the study along with collaborators Janet Kelso and Svante Pääbo.

The hormone progesterone plays a significant role in pregnancy and in the menstrual cycle. Analyses of biobank data from over 450,000 participants—among them 244,000 women—have revealed that nearly one in three women in Europe have inherited the Neanderthals’ progesterone receptors. While 29% carry one copy of the progesterone receptor from Neanderthals, 3% were found to carry two copies.

Favorable effect on fertility

The proportion of women who inherited this gene is about ten times greater than for most Neanderthal gene variants. These findings suggest that the Neanderthal variant of the receptor has a favorable effect on fertility.”

Hugo Zeberg, Researcher, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet

The study revealed that women who carry the Neanderthal receptor variant are likely to have fewer miscarriages, less bleeding during early pregnancy, and give birth to more children.

According to molecular analyses, such women create more progesterone receptors in their cells, which may result in improved sensitivity to progesterone and offer protection against bleeding and early miscarriages.

Source:
Journal reference:

Zeberg, H., et al. (2020) The Neanderthal Progesterone Receptor. Molecular Biology and Evolution. doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msaa119.

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