Gender May Guide Gene Expression

The finding could explain male-female differences in disease risk

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FRIDAY, July 7, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Thousands of genes behave differently in females and males, and this may explain gender differences in disease risk and response to drugs, U.S. researchers report.

A team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) studied the expression of 23,000 genes in the brain, liver, fat and muscle tissue of mice, which have 99 percent of the same genes as humans.

While each gene functioned the same in both males and females, more than half the genes showed differences in the amount of their expression -- the process by which a gene's DNA sequence is converted into proteins used by the cell.

"We previously had no good understanding of why the sexes vary in their relationship to different diseases," study author Xia Yang, a postdoctoral fellow in cardiology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement. "Our study discovered a genetic disparity that may explain why males and females diverge in terms of disease risk, rate and severity."

"Males and females share the same genetic code, but our findings imply that gender regulates how quickly the body can convert DNA to proteins. This suggests that gender influences how disease develops," Yang explained.

"This research holds important information for understanding disorders such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and identifies targets for the development of gender-specific therapies," Jake Lusis, study co-author and a professor of human genetics at UCLA, said in a prepared statement.

The findings are published in the August issue of Genome Research.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about gender differences.

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, July 7, 2006

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