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Medea genes, handedness and other traits

February 8, 2015

Medea factors or genes are maternal-effects mechanisms, found in many species, in which the mother's body selectively kills embryos of a certain genotype.Humans have a similar genetic mechanism, the gene RHD which produces Rh-factor involved in blood type.Recently I proposed that RHD acts as a maternal-effects gene that determines handedness (i.e., right handed or non-right handed) in individuals of our species. Here, I argue that RHD functions as a Medea gene as well.The handedness gene (and also RHD itself in some cases) has been implicated in autism spectrum disorders (ASD), bipolar disorder, cerebral laterality (i.e., right-brained or left-brained speech laterality), hair-whorl rotation, schizophrenia, sexual orientation, and speech dyslexia.Identifying the gene or genes that determine handedness or cerebral laterality may help uncover the mechanisms underlying these behavioral phenotypes in our species.A relatively simple test of the handedness hypothesis has been proposed:In a sample of humans for whom handedness has been evaluated, we would need to genotype for RHD by determining whether Rh+ individuals have one or two copies of the dominant allele. If RHD and perhaps also an interaction with RHCE are involved in sexual orientation, it explains how selection could favor a gene or genes which cause some people to become non-heterosexual.The literature on Medea genes provides the explanation:A Medea allele must increase in frequency, sometimes to fixation (i.e., 100% frequency) even if it reduces fecundity (e.g., birth rate).In addition, treatment for RHD maternal-fetal genotype incompatibility, which allows more fetuses to survive to term now, may be one explanation for why ASD appears to be increasing in frequency in some populations, if RHD is indeed the handedness gene, although many other mechanisms have also been suggested. One wonders if bipolar disorder and the other alternative phenotypes are also increasing in frequency.

Publication Year 2015
Title Medea genes, handedness and other traits
DOI 10.4172/2167-0277.1000188
Authors Jeffrey Hatfield
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Sleep Disorders & Therapy
Index ID 70141187
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center