HUMAN EVOLUTION

Origins of the sweaty ape

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Science  04 Jun 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6546, pp. 1052-1053
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6546.1052-d

Humans are unique mammals that lack hair in many parts of their body and have an increased capacity for sweating, which assists in thermoregulation, through eccrine sweat glands. Using a comparative genomics approach to study the regulation of genes involved in the development of eccrine sweat glands, Aldea et al. investigated noncoding genomic elements to determine the differences underlying the increased eccrine sweat gland density of humans relative to other primates and mice. They found that human-specific evolution in a noncoding enhancer, hECE18, likely increases gene expression of the Engrailed1 gene, which is required for the development of eccrine sweat glands. Furthermore, humanized hECE18 knock-in mice have an increased number of these glands, supporting the idea that this human-specific adaptation is a result of changes in the noncoding regulatory regions of proteins.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118, e2021722118 (2021).

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