Production of heat via nonshivering thermogenesis (NST) is critical for temperature homeostasis in mammals. Uncoupling protein UCP1 plays a central role in NST by uncoupling the proton gradients produced in the inner membranes of mitochondria to produce heat; however, the extent to which UCP1 homologues, UCP2 and UCP3, are involved in NST is the subject of an ongoing debate. We used an evolutionary approach to test the hypotheses that variants that are associated with increased expression of these genes (UCP1 –3826A, UCP2 –866A, and UCP3 –55T) show evidence of adaptation with winter climate. To that end, we calculated correlations between allele frequencies and winter climate variables for these single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which we genotyped in a panel of 52 worldwide populations. We found significant correlations with winter climate for UCP1 –3826G/A and UCP3 –55C/T. Further, by analyzing previously published genotype data for these SNPs, we found that the peak of the correlation for the UCP1 region occurred at the disease-associated –3826A/G variant and that the UCP3 region has a striking signal overall, with several individual SNPs showing interesting patterns, including the –55C/T variant. Resequencing of the regions in a set of three diverse population samples helped to clarify the signals that we found with the genotype data. At UCP1, the resequencing data revealed modest evidence that the haplotype carrying the –3826A variant was driven to high frequency by selection. In the UCP3 region, combining results from the climate analysis and resequencing survey suggest a more complex model in which variants on multiple haplotypes may independently be correlated with temperature. This is further supported by an excess of intermediate frequency variants in the UCP3 region in the Han Chinese population. Taken together, our results suggest that adaptation to climate influenced the global distribution of allele frequencies in UCP1 and UCP3 and provide an independent source of evidence for a role in cold resistance for UCP3. mbe.oxfordjournals.org
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