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Several recent studies have found signs of recent selection on the carnitine palmitoyl-transferase 1A (CPT1A) gene in the ancestors of Arctic populations likely as a result of their traditional diet. CPT1A is involved in fatty acid transportation and is known to affect circulating fatty acid profiles in Inuit as does the unique traditional diet rich in marine animals. We aimed to assess which fatty acids may have driven the selection of rs80356779, a c.1436C>T (p.(Pro479Leu)) variant in CPT1A, by analyzing a potential interaction between the variant and traditional Inuit diet. We included 3005 genome-wide genotyped individuals living in Greenland, who had blood cell membrane fatty acid levels measured. Consumption of 25 traditional food items was expressed as percentage of total energy intake. We tested for CPT1A × traditional diet interaction while taking relatedness and admixture into account. Increasing intakes of traditional diet was estimated to attenuate the effect of 479L on 20:3 omega-6 levels (p = 0.000399), but increase the effect of the variant on 22:5 omega-3 levels (p = 0.000963). The 479L effect on 22:5 omega-3 more than doubled in individuals with a high intake of traditional diet (90% percentile) compared with individuals with a low intake (10% percentile). Similar results were found when assessing interactions with marine foods. Our results suggest that the association between traditional diet and blood cell fatty acid composition is affected by the CPT1A genotype, or other variants in linkage disequilibrium, and support the hypothesis that omega-3 fatty acids may have been important for adaptation to the Arctic diet.

Original publication




Journal article


European journal of human genetics : EJHG

Publication Date





1592 - 1601


Department of Biology, Bioinformatics Centre, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Blood Cells, Humans, Carnitine O-Palmitoyltransferase, Fatty Acids, Diet, Acclimatization, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Adult, Middle Aged, Female, Male, Selection, Genetic, Inuit