Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A genetic variant near olfactory receptor genes influences cilantro preference | Haldane's Sieve|ArXived

OMG my wife might actually have a debilitating genetic reason for hating chinese parsley (which i love btw) very tempted to secretly sequence her blood to find out if it's true for her. 
Good Work 23andMe for propagating genetic tolerance of oft misunderstood genetic preferences that have led to divides in human culture!

Our paper: A genetic variant near olfactory receptor genes influences cilantro preference

For our next guest post Nick Eriksson (@nkeriks) writes about his ArXived paper with other23andMe folks: A genetic variant near olfactory receptor genes influences cilantro preference ArXived here

First a little background about research at 23andMe. We have over 150,000 genotyped customers, a large proportion of whom answer surveys online. We run GWAS on pretty much everything trait you can think of (at least everything that is easily reported and possibly related to genetics). Around 2010, we started to ask a couple of questions about cilantro: if people like it, and if they perceive a soapy taste to it.

Fast forward a couple of years, and we have tens of thousands of people answering these questions. We start to see an interesting finding: one SNP significantly associated with both cilantro dislike and perceiving a soapy taste. Best of all, it was in a cluster of olfactory receptor genes.

The sense of smell is pretty cool. Humans have hundreds of olfactory receptor genes that encode G protein-coupled receptors. We perceive smells due to the binding of specific chemicals ("odorants") to these receptors. There are maybe 1000 total olfactory receptors in various mammalian genomes, but it's not totally clear which are pseudogenes. There has probably been some loss of these genes in humans as our sense of smell has become less critical. These genes appear in clusters in the genome, which makes it pretty hard for GWAS to pick out a specific gene. For example, in the first 23andMe paper, we identified a variant in a different cluster of olfactory receptors that affected whether you perceive a certain smell in your urine after eating asparagus. However, we still don't know what the true functional variant in that region is.

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