Battle of sexes begins in genes

November 1, 2006

Thousands of genes that behave differently in the same organs of males and females may help explain why the same disease often strikes males and females differently, and why the genders may not respond the same way to the same drug.

Thousands of genes that behave differently in the same organs of males and females may help explain why the same disease often strikes males and females differently, and why the genders may not respond the same way to the same drug.

Xia Yang, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues examined brain, liver, fat, and muscle tissue from mice with the goal of finding genetic clues related to mental illnesses, diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis. The team scrutinized more than 23,000 genes. Even in the same organ, scores of genes varied in expression levels between the sexes (Genome Res 2006;16:995-1004).

"We share the same genetic code, but our findings imply that gender regulates how quickly the body can convert DNA to proteins," Yang said. "This suggests that gender influences how disease develops."