Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Demon rum   posted by Razib @ 8/22/2007 09:05:00 PM

Baltic neighbours face alcohol crisis:
The Estonian government plans to raise taxes on alcohol by 30% next year as the small Baltic nation of 1.3 million is struggling with a drink problem....

Finland has traditionally had very strict controls on alcohol. Strong drinks can only be bought in the state-controlled Alko shops - rather uninviting buildings which have few signs outside advertising their wares.

In related news, Evidence of positive selection on a class I ADH locus:

...Products of the three class I ADH genes that share 95% sequence identity are believed to play the major role in the first step of ethanol metabolism...we used genomic data to test the hypothesis...Both the F(st) statistic and the long-range haplotype (LRH) test provided positive evidence of selection in several East Asian populations...Interestingly, this haplotype is present at a high frequency in only some East Asian populations, whereas the specific allele also exists in other East Asian populations and in the Near East and Europe but does not show evidence of selection with use of the LRH test. Although the ADH1B*47His allele conveys a well-confirmed protection against alcoholism, that modern phenotypic manifestation does not easily translate into a positive selective force, and the nature of that selective force, in the past and/or currently, remains speculative.

What's going on here? As a great man once said, maybe it's agriculture?

Though seriously, I doubt that protection against alcoholism here is a major issue. So why is it being selected? Who knows. It seems likely that ADH1B is somehow involved in metabolization of various biochemicals which might have fitness implications. What are these populations consuming? And what aren't the other populations consuming? Or, perhaps they're consuming similar things (at least biochemically), but other (e.g., Near Eastern) populations have different selected alleles or functionally relevant loci which result in no great selection on the ADH1B allele in question.

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