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Tero Toivanen

NIMH · Our brains are made of the same stuff, despite DNA differences - 0 views

  • “Having at our fingertips detailed information about when and where specific gene products are expressed in the brain brings new hope for understanding how this process can go awry in schizophrenia, autism and other brain disorders,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
  • Among key findings in the prefrontal cortex:

    • Individual genetic variations are profoundly linked to expression patterns. The most similarity across individuals is detected early in development and again as we approach the end of life.
    • Different types of related genes are expressed during prenatal development, infancy, and childhood, so that each of these stages shows a relatively distinct transcriptional identity. Three-fourths of genes reverse their direction of expression after birth, with most switching from on to off.
    • Expression of genes involved in cell division declines prenatally and in infancy, while expression of genes important for making synapses, or connections between brain cells, increases. In contrast, genes required for neuronal projections decline after birth – likely as unused connections are pruned.
    • By the time we reach our 50s, overall gene expression begins to increase, mirroring the sharp reversal of fetal expression changes that occur in infancy.
    • Genetic variation in the genome as a whole showed no effect on variation in the transcriptome as a whole, despite how genetically distant individuals might be. Hence, human cortexes have a consistent molecular architecture, despite our diversity.
  • Among key findings:

    • Over 90 percent of the genes expressed in the brain are differentially regulated across brain regions and/or over developmental time periods. There are also widespread differences across region and time periods in the combination of a gene’s exons that are expressed.
    • Timing and location are far more influential in regulating gene expression than gender, ethnicity or individual variation.
    • Among 29 modules of co-expressed genes identified, each had distinct expression patterns and represented different biological processes. Genetic variation in some of the most well-connected genes in these modules, called hub genes, has previously been linked to mental disorders, including schizophrenia and depression.
    • Telltale similarities in expression profiles with genes previously implicated in schizophrenia and autism are providing leads to discovery of other genes potentially involved in those disorders.
    • Sex differences in the risk for certain mental disorders may be traceable to transcriptional mechanisms. More than three-fourths of 159 genes expressed differentially between the sexes were male-biased, most prenatally. Some genes found to have such sex-biased expression had previously been associated with disorders that affect males more than females, such as schizophrenia, Williams syndrome, and autism.
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  • Our brains are all made of the same stuff. Despite individual and ethnic genetic diversity, our prefrontal cortex shows a consistent molecular architecture.
  • Males show more sex-biased gene expression. More genes differentially expressed (DEX) between the sexes were found in males than females, especially prenatally. Some genes found to have such sex-biased expression had previously been associated with disorders that affect males more than females, such as schizophrenia, Williams syndrome, and autism.
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    Our brains are all made of the same stuff. Despite individual and ethnic genetic diversity, our prefrontal cortex shows a consistent molecular architecture. 
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