High altitude natives have enlarged vital capacities and residual volumes (RV). Because pulmonary volumes are an indication of functionally relevant traits, such as diffusion capacity, the understanding of the factors (genetic/developmental) that influence lung volumes provides insight into the adaptive responses of highlanders. In order to test for the effect of growth and development at high altitude on lung volumes, we obtained forced vital capacities (FVC), RV, and total lung capacities (TLC) for a sample of 65 Peruvian females of mostly Quechua origins (18-34 years) who were sub-divided into two well-matched groups: 1) sea-level born and raised females (BSL, n = 34) from Lima, Peru (150 m), and 2) high-altitude born and raised females (BHA, n = 31) from Cerro de Pasco, Peru (4,338 m). To determine Quechua origins, Native American ancestry proportion (NAAP) for each individual was assessed using a panel of 70 ancestry informative markers. NAAP was similar between groups (BSL = 91.71%; BHA = 89.93%; P = 0.240), and the analysis confirmed predominantly Quechua origins. After adjusting for body size and NAAP, BHA females had significantly higher FVC (3.79 ± 0.06 l; P < 0.001), RV (0.98 ± 0.03 l; P < 0.001) and TLC (4.80 ± 0.07 l; P < 0.001) compared to BSL females (FVC = 3.33 ± 0.05 l; RV = 0.69 ± 0.03 l; TLC = 4.02 ± 0.06 l). NAAP was not associated with FVC (P = 0.352) or TLC (P = 0.506). However, NAAP was positively associated with RV (P = 0.004). In summary, results indicate that developmental exposure to high altitude in females constitutes an important factor for all lung volumes, whereas both genetic and developmental factors seem to be important for RV. Am J Phys Anthropol 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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