Men’s “Y” Chromosome Does More than Thought
Node Smith, ND
New light is being shed on a little-known role of Y chromosome genes, specific to males, that could explain why men suffer differently than women from various diseases, including Covid-19.
The findings were published this month in Scientific Reports by Université de Montréal professor Christian Deschepper, director of the Experimental Cardiovascular Biology research unit of the Montreal Clinical Research Institute.
“Our discovery provides a better understanding of how male genes on the Y chromosome allow male cells to function differently from female cells,” said Deschepper, the study’s lead author, who is also an associate professor at McGill University.
“In the future, these results could help to shed some light on why some diseases occur differently in men and women.”
Genes that females lack
Humans each have 23 pairs of chromosomes, including one pair of sex chromosomes. While females carry two X sex chromosomes, males carry one X and one Y chromosome. This male chromosome carries genes that females lack. Although these male genes are expressed in all cells of the body, their only confirmed role to date has been essentially limited to the functions of the sex organs.
In this study, a genetic manipulation was performed that inactivated two male genes on the Y chromosome
In his study, Deschepper performed a genetic manipulation that inactivated two male genes on the Y chromosome, altering several signalling pathways that play important roles in certain functions of non-sex organ cells. For example, under stress, some of the affected mechanisms could influence the way in which cells in human hearts defend themselves against aggressions such as ischemia (reduced blood supply) or mechanical stress.
In addition, the study showed that these male genes performed their regulatory functions in a way that was unusual compared to the mechanisms generally used by most other genes on the non-sex chromosomes. Thus, instead of specifically activating certain genes by direct action at the genome level, the Y chromosome seems to affect cellular functions by acting on protein production.
The discovery of these differences in function may explain in part why the functions of male Y chromosome genes have so far been poorly understood, said Deschepper.
Males differ from females in the manifestation, severity and consequences of most diseases. A recent example of this duality is Covid-19, which has a mortality rate twice as high in men than in women.
1. Christian F. Deschepper. Regulatory effects of the Uty/Ddx3y locus on neighboring chromosome Y genes and autosomal mRNA transcripts in adult mouse non-reproductive cells. Scientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-71447-3
Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and associate editor and continuing education director for NDNR. His mission is serving relationships that support the process of transformation, and that ultimately lead to healthier people, businesses and communities. His primary therapeutic tools include counselling, homeopathy, diet and the use of cold water combined with exercise. Node considers health to be a reflection of the relationships a person or a business has with themselves, with God and with those around them. In order to cure disease and to heal, these relationships must be specifically considered. Node has worked intimately with many groups and organizations within the naturopathic profession, and helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR), which works to promote and facilitate experiential education in vitalism.