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Ecology drives intragenomic conflict over menopause

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Author(s)

Francisco Ubeda, Hisashi Ohtsuki, Andy Gardner

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Abstract

Menopause is the transition from reproductive to non-reproductive life well before natural death. Rather than involving a smooth, rapid change, it is normally preceded by a long period of erratic hormonal fluctuation that is accompanied by a plethora of unpleasant symptoms. Here, we (1) suggest that this turbulent period owes to conflict, between a woman's maternally inherited (MI) and paternally inherited (PI) genes, over the trade-off between reproduction and communal care; (2) perform a theoretical analysis to show that this conflict is resolved either through silencing or fluctuating expression of one of the genes; (3) highlight which of the symptoms preceding menopause may result from antagonistic co-evolution of MI and PI genes; (4) argue that ecological differences between ancestral human populations may explain the variability in menopause among different ethnic groups; (5) discuss how these insights may be used to inform family planning and cancer risk assessment based on a woman's ancestral background.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-174
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Volume17
Issue number2
Early online date9 Dec 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014

    Research areas

  • Cancer, Cooperation, Demography, Fertility, Game theory, Genomic imprinting, Humans, Hunter gatherers, Kin selection, Migration

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