Stone Age gene variants let us develop a higher smoke tolerance when grilling

Gen variant could be responsible for better tolerance to smoke
For men, barbecuing is one of the most popular leisure activities in summer. The sight of the fire, crackling sparks and the typical smoke create the right atmosphere and are simply a must for grill fans. A new work from Pennsylvania State University could explain why this is so: Gary Perdew and his team have discovered a genetic peculiarity that may have helped modern humans adapt better to smoke from fire. The researchers have published their results in the journal "Molecular Biology and Evolution".

Smoke is part of grilling
For many grill fans, it cannot hiss, crackle and smoke enough when preparing sausages, steaks and the like. It could be due to a genetic peculiarity that we find fire fascinating and the smoke mostly not particularly disturbing. A team of scientists led by Gary Perdew from Pennsylvania State University discovered a possibly decisive difference when comparing the genes of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and the so-called "Denisova man".

Only modern humans carry the gene mutation
Because, unlike his relatives, modern humans apparently carry a specific gene variant that may have an increased tolerance to toxic substances that are generated by fire for cooking, protection or heating, according to a report from the Pennsylvania, Gary Perdew State University.

Decreased binding affinity for PAH
The said gene codes for a protein called “aryl hydrocarbon receptor” (AHR), to which polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) bind. These occur naturally in lignite and hard coal, for example, and also arise when wood is heated or burned, etc. They can be found in roasted or grilled meat products as well as in tobacco smoke and are carcinogenic in many cases.

According to the researchers, the changed base in the gene affects the function of the AHR protein by significantly reducing the binding affinity for the PAH compared to the archaic variants. As a result, the smoke created by fire becomes more tolerable for us.

Other groups suffer more from the smoke
All three groups had used the researchers after fire, be it for heating, as an aid for hunting or for gatherings. In addition to the permitted cooking with fire, our ancestors a wider range of foods such as Integrate roots and tubers and led to better digestion of food, the university informs.

From the experts' point of view, Neanderthals and Denisova people would probably have suffered significantly more from the negative effects of fire and smoke due to the lack of a gene variant. Because in high concentrations, the toxins generated by smoke could increase the risk of respiratory infections and cancer. Expectant mothers who come into contact with the toxins could increase the risk of a low birth weight of the child and infant mortality.

Human ancestors metabolize the toxic compounds more slowly
"Neanderthals would be exposed to several sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons known to be carcinogenic and high concentrations of cell deaths from inhaling smoke and eating char grilled meat," said Perdew.

"The evolutionary hypothesis is that if Neanderthals were exposed to large amounts of these smoke-generated toxins, this could lead to respiratory problems, reduced reproductive capacity in women and increased susceptibility to respiratory viruses in pre-adolescence, while our ancestors would have reduced toxicity because they did Metabolism of compounds slower, ”the scientist continues. (No)

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