Humans have spread out all over the world adapting to many different cold environments. Recent worldwide genome analyses and animal experiments have reported dozens of genes associated with cold adaptation. The uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) gene enhances thermogenesis reaction in a physiological process by blocking ATP (adenosine triphosphate) synthesis on a mitochondrial membrane in brown adipose tissues. To our knowledge, no previous studies have shown an association between variants of the UCP1 gene and physiological phenotypes concerning non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) under the condition of low temperature in humans. We showed that the degree of NST for healthy subjects in an artificial climate chamber is significantly different among UCP1 genotypes. Defining the haplotypes covering the UCP1 region (39.4 kb), we found that the frequency of the haplotype with the highest NST was significantly correlated with latitudes and ambient temperature. Thus, the data in this study provide the first evidence that the UCP1 genotype alters the efficiency of NST in humans, and likely supports the hypothesis that the UCP1 gene has been related to cold adaptation in human evolutionary history.
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