KL gene variant found to increase IQ by six points


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Individuals with a VS version of the KL gene have in average six IQ points more than other people. This is the conclusion drawn from three independent studies, including a new one conducted by Dena Dubal of the University of California, San Francisco, and Lennart Mucke of the Gladstone Institutes, also in San Francisco.

The researchers think that KL gene could account for as much as 3% of the variation of IQ in the general population. In comparison, the previous record-holders, HMGA2 and NPTN, each account for only 0.5% of that variation.

The KL gene encodes the klotho enzyme, which provides some control over the sensitivity of the organism to insulin and appears to be involved in ageing. Klotho deficiencies have been linked with degenerative processes (e.g., arteriosclerosis, osteoporosis, and skin atrophy).

The KL-VS gene was previously associated with increased longevity by reducing age-related heart disease. Transgenic mice that overexpress Klotho live 20% to 30% longer than wild-type mice.

Another study found that mice genetically engineered to have higher levels of the mouse equivalent of KL-VS did much better than regular mice at learning how to navigate mazes and other memory tests.

From The Economist:

The Economist said:
Signals cross synapses in chemical form. The most common messenger chemical, known as glutamate, is picked up by the receiving cell using molecules called NMDA receptors. It is known from previous work that glutamate stimulation of NMDA, or the lack of it, can strengthen or weaken synaptic connections. This is believed to be the basis of memory.

The team’s genetic engineering changed the nature of the NMDA receptors in the mice’s hippocampuses and frontal cortices—two regions of the brain particularly involved in memory formation—by doubling in them the number of a particular sort of molecular subunit, GluN2B. Previous research has found links between GluN2B levels and cognitive performance. Dr Dubal and Dr Mucke discovered that blocking GluN2B with a drug called ifenprodil abolished the genetically engineered mice’s advantage. That suggests klotho works its magic, at least in part, by increasing the number of GluN2B subunits in the NMDA receptors of the brain’s memory and learning circuits.

Dr Dubal and Dr Mucke hope, despite their failure to show any protective effect of KL-VS on age-related cognitive decline, that this knowledge may be put to use. A drug that elevates klotho levels, or mimics that protein’s function, might indeed enhance cognition, and there is no obvious reason why such a drug should be restricted to the elderly. If it could be developed everyone—except, maybe, those already in possession of a copy of KL-VS in their genes—might be able to take pills to make themselves a little brighter.

The SNP in question is Rs9536314 and the beneficial variants are the minor alleles GG and GT. It is tested by 23andMe.

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Are there SNPs associated with this KL-VS gene variant that we can check with Family Finder or 23andme raw data?

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