The rest of you might be totally lost. Here’s a soon-to-be-classic paper on the characterization of the Hoho2 gene (292K pdf)—the Santa phenotype seems to represent an optimization for an arctic niche. They suggest the allele might have had an origin in Neandertal populations, but then they also show its effect in reindeer and E. coli (yes, they have beardy bacteria). It’s a very confused paper.
In this paper we unequivocally identify and characterize the genetic determinant of the famous white beard of Santa Claus to be the ortholog of human KRT6B. The newly discovered gene is named Hoho2 for Human ortholog for hair ougmentation 2. The Santa gene Hoho2 is synthesized and codon optimized for codon expression. Successful heterologous protein expression is shown in three separate systems; E. coli, reindeer, and human. We further show that the bearded phenotype is tissue specific in mammalians, but not in prokaryotes. A Hoho2 specific RNAi knockout was constructed and shown to specifically disrupt the facial beard phenotype. Trans-complementation of the gene could be achieved using a synthetic RNAi resistant variant, indicating that the phenotype is truly a direct consequence of the Hoho2 gene and not due to indirect or off-target-effects on the phenotypic display.
P.S. I’ve categorized this one as “Molecular biology” and “Humor”. Do you know how rarely those two come together?
P.P.S. Everyone who reads the paper is probably going to come back and tell me why they don’t go together very often.
Claes S, Reindeer R, Nicolas S, Tomte NE, Sridhar D, Elf J (2006) Heterologous expression and functional characterization of the Santa Hoho2 gene. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. Northpole 12:25-31.