'Potato gene' reveals how ancient Andeans adapted to starchy diet

Potatoes, native to South America, became an agricultural crop thousands of years ago in the Andean highlands of Peru. And just as the ancient Andean people turned wild tubers into the domesticated potato, the potato may have altered the genomes of the Andeans who made it a staple of their diet.

Science Advances published the findings. DNA analyses show that ancient populations of the Peruvian highlands adapted to the introduction of agriculture and an extreme, high-altitude environment in ways distinct from other global populations.

“We see a different configuration of a gene associated with starch digestion in the small intestine — MGAM — in the agricultural ancient Andean genome samples, but not in hunter-gatherers down the coast,” says Emory University geneticist John Lindo, first author of the paper. “It suggests a sort of co-evolution between an agricultural crop and human beings.” Dr. Lindo is also a faculty member in the GMB and PBEE programs.

Click here to view the full story in the Emory News Center.