The genetic trait that allows intestinal lactase to persist into adulthood in some 35% of humans worldwide operates at the level of transcription, the effect being caused by cis-acting nucleotide changes upstream of the lactase gene (LCT). A single nucleotide substitution, -13910 C>T, the first causal variant to be identified, accounts for lactase persistence over most of Europe. Located in a region shown to have enhancer function in vitro, it causes increased activity of the LCT promoter in Caco-2 cells, and altered transcription factor binding. Three other variants in close proximity, -13907 C>G, -13915 T>C and -14010 G>C, were later shown to behave in a similar manner. Here, we study four further candidate functional variants. Two, -14009 T>G and -14011 C>T, adjacent to the well-studied -14010 G>C variant, also have a clear effect on promoter activity upregulation as assessed by transfection assays, but notably are involved in different molecular interactions. The results for the two other variants (-14028 T>C, -13779 G>C) were suggestive of function, -14028*C showing a clear change in transcription factor binding, but no obvious effect in transfections, while -13779*G showed greater effect in transfections but less on transcription factor binding. Each of the four variants arose on independent haplotypic backgrounds with different geographic distribution.
Liebert, A., Jones, B. L., Danielsen, E. T., Olsen, A. K., Swallow, D. W., & Troelsen, J. (2016). In Vitro Functional Analyses of Infrequent Nucleotide Variants in the Lactase Enhancer Reveal Different Molecular Routes to Increased Lactase Promoter Activity and Lactase Persistence. Annals of Human Genetics, 80(6), 307–318. https://doi.org/10.1111/ahg.12167