• Identification of differences in human and great ape phytanic acid metabolism that could influence gene expression profiles and physiological functions

      Watkins, Paul A.; Moser, Ann B.; Toomer, Cicely B.; Steinberg, Steven J.; Moser, Hugo W.; Karaman, Mazen W.; Ramaswamy, Krishna; Siegmund, Kimberly D.; Lee, D. Rick; Ely, John J.; et al. (2010)
      It has been proposed that anatomical differences in human and great ape guts arose in response to species-specific diets and energy demands. To investigate functional genomic consequences of these differences, we compared their physiological levels of phytanic acid, a branched chain fatty acid that can be derived from the microbial degradation of chlorophyll in ruminant guts. Humans who accumulate large stores of phytanic acid commonly develop cerebellar ataxia, peripheral polyneuropathy, and retinitis pigmentosa in addition to other medical conditions. Furthermore, phytanic acid is an activator of the PPAR-alpha transcription factor that influences the expression of genes relevant to lipid metabolism.