An evolutionary model for identifying genetic adaptation to high altitude

Lorna G. Moore, Mark Shriver, Lynne Bemis, Enrique Vargas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

15 Scopus citations


Coordinated maternal/fetal responses to pregnancy are required to ensure continuous O2 delivery to the developing organism. Mammals employ distinctive reproductive strategies that afford their young an improved chance of survival through the completion or the reproductive period. Thus, mortality prior to the end of the reproductive period is concentrated in the earliest phases of the lifecycle. At high altitude, fetal growth restriction reduces birth weight and likely compromises survival during the early postnatal period. Population variation in the frequency of the altitude-associated increase in intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) demonstrates that multigenerational Tibetan and Andean high-altitude populations are protected compared with shorter duration, European or Han (Chinese) residents. This experiment of nature permits testing the hypothesis that genetic factors (a) influence susceptibility to altitude-associated IUGR, (b) act on maternal vascular adjustments to pregnancy determining uteroplacental blood flow, and (c) involve genes which regulate and/or are regulated by hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). Serial, studies during pregnancy as well as postpartum in Andean and European residents of high (3600 m) and low (300 m) altitude will permit evaluation of whether uteroplacental O2 delivery is lower in the European than Andean women and, if so, the physiological factors responsible. Comparisons of HIF-targeted vasoactive substances and SNPs in or near HIF-regulatory or targeted genes will permit determination of whether these regions are distinctive in the Andean population. Studies coupling genetic and genomic approaches with more traditional physiological measures may be productively employed for determining the genetic mechanisms influencing physiological adaptation to high altitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHypoxia and Exercise
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780387348162
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598


  • Adaptation
  • Hypoxia
  • Hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)
  • IUGR
  • Natural selection
  • Preeclampsia
  • Uteroplacental ischemia


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