Functional and evolutionary insights into human brain development through global transcriptome analysis.
ABSTRACT: Our understanding of the evolution, formation, and pathological disruption of human brain circuits is impeded by a lack of comprehensive data on the developing brain transcriptome. A whole-genome, exon-level expression analysis of 13 regions from left and right sides of the mid-fetal human brain revealed that 76% of genes are expressed, and 44% of these are differentially regulated. These data reveal a large number of specific gene expression and alternative splicing patterns, as well as coexpression networks, associated with distinct regions and neurodevelopmental processes. Of particular relevance to cognitive specializations, we have characterized the transcriptional landscapes of prefrontal cortex and perisylvian speech and language areas, which exhibit a population-level global expression symmetry. We show that differentially expressed genes are more frequently associated with human-specific evolution of putative cis-regulatory elements. These data provide a wealth of biological insights into the complex transcriptional and molecular underpinnings of human brain development and evolution.
Project description:Despite the well established role of the frontal and posterior perisylvian cortices in many facets of human-cognitive specializations, including language, little is known about the developmental patterning of these regions in the human brain. We performed a genome-wide analysis of human cerebral patterning during midgestation, a critical epoch in cortical regionalization. A total of 345 genes were identified as differentially expressed between superior temporal gyrus (STG) and the remaining cerebral cortex. Gene ontology categories representing transcription factors were enriched in STG, whereas cell-adhesion and extracellular matrix molecules were enriched in the other cortical regions. Quantitative RT-PCR or in situ hybridization was performed to validate differential expression in a subset of 32 genes, most of which were confirmed. LIM domain-binding 1 (LDB1), which we show to be enriched in the STG, is a recently identified interactor of LIM domain only 4 (LMO4), a gene known to be involved in the asymmetric pattering of the perisylvian region in the developing human brain. Protocadherin 17 (PCDH17), a neuronal cell adhesion molecule, was highly enriched in focal regions of the human prefrontal cortex. Contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2), in which mutations are known to cause autism, epilepsy, and language delay, showed a remarkable pattern of anterior-enriched cortical expression in human that was not observed in mouse or rat. These data highlight the importance of expression analysis of human brain and the utility of cross-species comparisons of gene expression. Genes identified here provide a foundation for understanding molecular aspects of human-cognitive specializations and the disorders that disrupt them.
Project description:The human left and right cerebral hemispheres are anatomically and functionally asymmetric. To test whether human cortical asymmetry has a molecular basis, we studied gene expression levels between the left and right embryonic hemispheres using serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE). We identified and verified 27 differentially expressed genes, which suggests that human cortical asymmetry is accompanied by early, marked transcriptional asymmetries. LMO4 is consistently more highly expressed in the right perisylvian human cerebral cortex than in the left and is essential for cortical development in mice, suggesting that human left-right specialization reflects asymmetric cortical development at early stages.
Project description:Direct comparisons of human and non-human primate brains can reveal molecular pathways underlying remarkable specializations of the human brain. However, chimpanzee tissue is inaccessible during neocortical neurogenesis when differences in brain size first appear. To identify human-specific features of cortical development, we leveraged recent innovations that permit generating pluripotent stem cell-derived cerebral organoids from chimpanzee. Despite metabolic differences, organoid models preserve gene regulatory networks related to primary cell types and developmental processes. We further identified 261 differentially expressed genes in human compared to both chimpanzee organoids and macaque cortex, enriched for recent gene duplications, and including multiple regulators of PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling. We observed increased activation of this pathway in human radial glia, dependent on two receptors upregulated specifically in human: INSR and ITGB8. Our findings establish a platform for systematic analysis of molecular changes contributing to human brain development and evolution.
Project description:Inroads into elucidating the origins of human cognitive specializations have taken many forms, including genetic, genomic, anatomical, and behavioral assays that typically compare humans to non-human primates. While the integration of all of these approaches is essential for ultimately understanding human cognition, here, we review the usefulness of coexpression network analysis for specifically addressing this question. An increasing number of studies have incorporated coexpression networks into brain expression studies comparing species, disease versus control tissue, brain regions, or developmental time periods. A clearer picture has emerged of the key genes driving brain evolution, as well as the developmental and regional contributions of gene expression patterns important for normal brain development and those misregulated in cognitive diseases.
Project description:Understanding human-specific patterns of brain gene expression and regulation can provide key insights into human brain evolution and speciation. Here, we use next-generation sequencing, and Illumina and Affymetrix microarray platforms, to compare the transcriptome of human, chimpanzee, and macaque telencephalon. Our analysis reveals a predominance of genes differentially expressed within human frontal lobe and a striking increase in transcriptional complexity specific to the human lineage in the frontal lobe. In contrast, caudate nucleus gene expression is highly conserved. We also identify gene coexpression signatures related to either neuronal processes or neuropsychiatric diseases, including a human-specific module with CLOCK as its hub gene and another module enriched for neuronal morphological processes and genes coexpressed with FOXP2, a gene important for language evolution. These data demonstrate that transcriptional networks have undergone evolutionary remodeling even within a given brain region, providing a window through which to view the foundation of uniquely human cognitive capacities.
Project description:The rise of comparative genomics and related technologies has added important new dimensions to the study of human evolution. Our knowledge of the genes that underwent expression changes or were targets of positive selection in human evolution is rapidly increasing, as is our knowledge of gene duplications, translocations, and deletions. It is now clear that the genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees are far more extensive than previously thought; their genomes are not 98% or 99% identical. Despite the rapid growth in our understanding of the evolution of the human genome, our understanding of the relationship between genetic changes and phenotypic changes is tenuous. This is true even for the most intensively studied gene, FOXP2, which underwent positive selection in the human terminal lineage and is thought to have played an important role in the evolution of human speech and language. In part, the difficulty of connecting genes to phenotypes reflects our generally poor knowledge of human phenotypic specializations, as well as the difficulty of interpreting the consequences of genetic changes in species that are not amenable to invasive research. On the positive side, investigations of FOXP2, along with genomewide surveys of gene-expression changes and selection-driven sequence changes, offer the opportunity for "phenotype discovery," providing clues to human phenotypic specializations that were previously unsuspected. What is more, at least some of the specializations that have been proposed are amenable to testing with noninvasive experimental techniques appropriate for the study of humans and apes.
Project description:MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are endogenous, small non-coding RNA molecules that mediate post-transcriptional gene suppression by incomplete matches with their host mRNAs. In the central nervous system, miRNAs that functionally interact with their target genes constitute a flexible, robust and buffered regulatory network, exerting diverse roles in brain evolution and development. However, distinct variation either in hub miRNA expression levels or patterns may initiate and/or progress various adult-onset nerve-related diseases. In this review, we will summarize the current knowledge about the general hallmarks of brain miRNAs that act as vital determinants in increasingly complicated neural activities. We endeavor to provide a constructive insight into the neuroscience research in the quest to comprehend molecular underpinnings of physiological functions and pathological disorders in central nervous system.
Project description:The transcriptional underpinnings of brain development remain poorly understood, particularly in humans and closely related non-human primates. We describe a high-resolution transcriptional atlas of rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) brain development that combines dense temporal sampling of prenatal and postnatal periods with fine anatomical division of cortical and subcortical regions associated with human neuropsychiatric disease. Gene expression changes more rapidly before birth, both in progenitor cells and maturing neurons. Cortical layers and areas acquire adult-like molecular profiles surprisingly late in postnatal development. Disparate cell populations exhibit distinct developmental timing of gene expression, but also unexpected synchrony of processes underlying neural circuit construction including cell projection and adhesion. Candidate risk genes for neurodevelopmental disorders including primary microcephaly, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, and schizophrenia show disease-specific spatiotemporal enrichment within developing neocortex. Human developmental expression trajectories are more similar to monkey than rodent, although approximately 9% of genes show human-specific regulation with evidence for prolonged maturation or neoteny compared to monkey.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Talpid moles show many specializations in their adult skeleton linked to fossoriality, including enlarged hands when compared to the feet. Heterochrony in developmental mechanisms is hypothesized to account for morphological evolution in skeletal elements. METHODS:The temporal and spatial distribution of SOX9 expression, which is an early marker of chondrification, is analyzed in autopods of the fossorial Iberian mole Talpa occidentalis, as well as in shrew (Cryptotis parva) and mouse (Mus musculus) for comparison. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION:SOX9 expression is advanced in the forelimb compared to the hind limb in the talpid mole. In contrast, in the shrew and the mouse, which do not show fossorial specializations in their autopods, it is synchronous. We provide evidence that transcriptional heterochrony affects the development of talpid autopods, an example of developmental penetrance. We discuss our data in the light of earlier reported pattern heterochrony and later morphological variation in talpid limbs. CONCLUSION:Transcriptional heterochrony in SOX9 expression is found in talpid autopods, which is likely to account for pattern heterochrony in chondral limb development as well as size variation in adult fore- and hind limbs.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The Weddell Seal (Leptonychotes weddelli) represents a remarkable example of adaptation to diving among marine mammals. This species is capable of diving >?900?m deep and remaining underwater for more than 60?min. A number of key physiological specializations have been identified, including the low levels of aerobic, lipid-based metabolism under hypoxia, significant increase in oxygen storage in blood and muscle; high blood volume and extreme cardiovascular control. These adaptations have been linked to increased abundance of key proteins, suggesting an important, yet still understudied role for gene reprogramming. In this study, we investigate the possibility that post-transcriptional gene regulation by microRNAs (miRNAs) has contributed to the adaptive evolution of diving capacities in the Weddell Seal. RESULTS:Using small RNA data across 4 tissues (brain, heart, muscle and plasma), in 3 biological replicates, we generate the first miRNA annotation in this species, consisting of 559 high confidence, manually curated miRNA loci. Evolutionary analyses of miRNA gain and loss highlight a high number of Weddell seal specific miRNAs. Four hundred sixteen miRNAs were differentially expressed (DE) among tissues, whereas 80 miRNAs were differentially expressed (DE) across all tissues between pups and adults and age differences for specific tissues were detected in 188 miRNAs. mRNA targets of these altered miRNAs identify possible protective mechanisms in individual tissues, particularly relevant to hypoxia tolerance, anti-apoptotic pathways, and nitric oxide signal transduction. Novel, lineage-specific miRNAs associated with developmental changes target genes with roles in angiogenesis and vasoregulatory signaling. CONCLUSIONS:Altogether, we provide an overview of miRNA composition and evolution in the Weddell seal, and the first insights into their possible role in the specialization to diving.