The ABCC11 gene determines both the type of earwax a person has and their armpit odor. A change in a single spot in the DNA of this gene can cause the gene not to function.
This article explains what the ABCC11 gene does and how to check your 23andMe or AncestryDNA raw data.
ABCC11: the “no body odor gene”
In a nutshell:
- People with the ABCC11 non-functioning gene variant have dry earwax and little or no body odor.
- People with a functioning ABCC11 gene usually have wet earwax and body odor.
Genetic variants that cause a loss of function of the ABCC11 gene are very common among East Asian populations (80-90% of the population).
In other population groups, it is rare to have no body odor. In fact, only around 2% of Caucasians carry the ‘no body odor’ version of the gene.
What does the ABCC11 gene do?
The ABCC11 gene (ATP-binding cassette transporter sub-family C member 11) encodes a protein involved in transporting molecules across cellular membranes.
ABCC11 is important for the transport of lipophilic compounds, bile acids, conjugated steroids, and – important here – the substance in apocrine sweat and earwax, thus causing body odor and wet earwax.
The transporter doesn’t work for people who have loss-of-function genetic variants and doesn’t transfer the odor-causing lipids into your armpits. No body odor!
What else is this gene important for?
Variants of this gene are also involved in resistance to antiviral and anticancer drugs.[ref]
The common genetic variant that causes body odor also causes an increase in sweat from the armpits.[ref]
In Japanese men, carrying the allele associated with wet earwax is linked with an increased risk of hidradenitis suppurativa.[ref]
Do you need to wear deodorant if you have the ABCC11 ‘no stink’ variant?
There was an interesting article in Scientific American a few years ago looking into the fact that those who genetically don’t have smelly pits often unnecessarily still wear deodorant.[ref]
Other research showed that those with the ‘no body odor’ variant sometimes had other sources of body odor or social reasons for wearing deodorant.[ref]
In general, though, people with the non-functioning ABCC11 variant don’t need to wear deodorant.
Genetics: How to find your ABCC11 gene variant
Check your genetic data for rs17822931 538A>G (23andMe v4, v5; AncestryDNA):
- C/C: wet earwax, body odor, and normal colostrum[ref][ref]
- C/T: wet earwax, somewhat less body odor
- T/T: dry earwax, no body odor, and less colostrum
Members: Your genotype for rs17822931 is —.
The frequency of the alleles varies greatly according to ethnic background.
For example, the vast majority of people in Korea have the T/T genotype with no body odor:
The flip side is that very few Caucasians in the UK have the T/T genotype:
In addition to the ‘no body odor’ variant, an additional variant in the gene is related to serious side effects from a certain chemotherapy drug. Keep in mind that the function of the ABCC11 gene is to transport certain molecules across the cell membrane. In this case, the variant causes the transport of the metabolite of a chemotherapy drug not to work correctly, increasing side effects.[ref]
Check your genetic data for rs17822471 (23andMe v4, v5):
- A/A: associated with 5-fluorouracil toxicity[ref][ref]
- A/G: associated with 5-fluorouracil toxicity
- G/G: typical
Members: Your genotype for rs17822471 is —.
Chemotherapy and cancer:
Changes in the ABCC11 gene may impact your reaction to a type of chemotherapy drug called fluorouracil.[ref] Talk with your doctor if you have concerns here.
Members’ Blueprint: Next Steps and Further Solutions
*** This section is only available to members. *** Not a member? Consider joining today. Members see their genetic data in each article, can access topic reports, and see the extended article sections with detailed information.
*** This section is only available to members. ***
Not a member? Consider joining today.
Members see their genetic data in each article, can access topic reports, and see the extended article sections with detailed information.
Related Articles and Genes:
Drinking Genes: How well do you break down alcohol?
Wondering why you don’t react the same way to alcohol as your friends do? Some people metabolize alcohol faster, leaving a build-up of acetaldehyde. Learn more about why this can be a health problem for some. (Member’s article)
Sore Muscles after a workout?
Do you end up getting sore after pretty much every workout at the gym? It could be that a deficiency caused by the AMPD1 genetic variant is the cause.
Top 10 Genes to Check in Your Genetic Raw Data
Wondering what is actually important in your genetic data? These 10 genes have important variants with a big impact on health. Check your genes (free article).
Anxiety and Genetics
This article covers genetic variants related to anxiety disorders. Genetic variants combine with environmental factors (nutrition, sleep, relationships, etc) regarding anxiety. There is not a single “anxiety gene”. Instead, many genes can be involved – and many genetic pathways to target for solutions.
23andMe. https://auth.23andme.com/login/?next=https%3A//auth.23andme.com/authorize/%3Fredirect_uri%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fyou.23andme.com%252Fauth_callback%252F%26response_type%3Dcode%26client_id%3Dyou%26scope%3Dopenid%2Bancestry%2Bbasic%2Bhaplogroups%2Bnames%2Bphenotypes%253Aread%253Aall%26state%3D%257B%2522origin_uri%2522%253A%2B%2522%252Ftools%252Fdata%252F%253Fquery%253Drs17822931%2522%257D. Accessed 10 Nov. 2021.
Arlanov, R., et al. “Functional Characterization of Common Protein Variants in the Efflux Transporter ABCC11 and Identification of T546M as Functionally Damaging Variant.” The Pharmacogenomics Journal, vol. 16, no. 2, Apr. 2016, pp. 193–201. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1038/tpj.2015.27.
Harker, Mark, et al. “Functional Characterisation of a SNP in the ABCC11 Allele – Effects on Axillary Skin Metabolism, Odour Generation and Associated Behaviours.” Journal of Dermatological Science, vol. 73, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 23–30. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jdermsci.2013.08.016.
Ishiguro, Junko, et al. “A Functional Single Nucleotide Polymorphism in ABCC11, Rs17822931, Is Associated with the Risk of Breast Cancer in Japanese.” Carcinogenesis, vol. 40, no. 4, June 2019, pp. 537–43. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgz005.
Ishikawa, Toshihisa, et al. “Pharmacogenetics of Human ABC Transporter ABCC11: New Insights into Apocrine Gland Growth and Metabolite Secretion.” Frontiers in Genetics, vol. 3, Jan. 2013, p. 306. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2012.00306.
Lang, Thomas, et al. “The Earwax-Associated SNP c.538G>A (G180R) in ABCC11 Is Not Associated with Breast Cancer Risk in Europeans.” Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, vol. 129, no. 3, Oct. 2011, pp. 993–99. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-011-1613-0.
Magdy, Tarek, et al. “ABCC11/MRP8 Polymorphisms Affect 5-Fluorouracil-Induced Severe Toxicity and Hepatic Expression.” Pharmacogenomics, vol. 14, no. 12, Sept. 2013, pp. 1433–48. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.2217/pgs.13.139.
Matsumoto, Hirofumi, et al. “ABCC11/MRP8 Expression in the Gastrointestinal Tract and a Novel Role for Pepsinogen Secretion.” Acta Histochemica Et Cytochemica, vol. 47, no. 3, June 2014, pp. 85–94. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1267/ahc.13040.
Miura, Kiyonori, et al. “A Strong Association between Human Earwax-Type and Apocrine Colostrum Secretion from the Mammary Gland.” Human Genetics, vol. 121, no. 5, June 2007, pp. 631–33. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00439-007-0356-9.
Ota, Ikuko, et al. “Association between Breast Cancer Risk and the Wild-Type Allele of Human ABC Transporter ABCC11.” Anticancer Research, vol. 30, no. 12, Dec. 2010, pp. 5189–94.
Shibuya, Yuka, et al. “Earwax of Patients with Hidradenitis Suppurativa: A Retrospective Study.” Archives of Plastic Surgery, vol. 46, no. 6, Nov. 2019, pp. 566–71. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.5999/aps.2019.00290.
Toyoda, Yu, et al. “Diagnosis of Human Axillary Osmidrosis by Genotyping of the Human ABCC11 Gene: Clinical Practice and Basic Scientific Evidence.” BioMed Research International, vol. 2016, Feb. 2016, p. e7670483. www.hindawi.com, https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/7670483.