Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers discover genes that distinguish human, nonhuman primate brains

14.10.2003


Findings shed light on the evolution of human cognition, the capacity for long lifespan and the potential for neurodegenerative disease



A research team from the Salk Institute, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University and the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), has identified genes in the cerebral cortex that differ in levels of activity between humans and nonhuman primates, including chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys. These findings, which appear in the online journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may provide essential clues to the unusual cognitive abilities of humans. They also may help researchers understand why humans have a longer lifespan than other primate species and yet are so vulnerable to age-related, neurodegenerative diseases.

Because the DNA sequences of humans are so similar to those of chimpanzees, scientists have long speculated that differences in the activity levels of particular genes, otherwise known as gene expression, and, as a result, the amounts of particular proteins cells produce, are what distinguish humans from chimpanzees. The recent sequencing of the human genome has led to the development of "gene chips" that enable researches to examine the expression levels of thousands of genes at a time as well as compare expression levels in different species.


Using gene chips to compare samples of the cerebral cortex of humans, chimpanzees and rhesus monkeys, the research team at the Salk, the Yerkes Center and UCLA identified 91 genes that are expressed in different amounts in humans compared to the other primate species. Upon further study, the team observed 83 of these genes showed higher levels of activity in humans, and as a result, regulated neural activity.

"When we looked at other tissues, such as heart and liver, we found nearly equal numbers of genes showing higher or lower levels of expression in humans as compared to chimpanzees and rhesus," said Todd Preuss, PhD, associate research professor of neuroscience at the Yerkes Research Center. "The changes in gene activity in the cortex suggest increases in the rate of brain activity, providing a basis for the evolution of the enhanced cognitive abilities in humans."

In addition to finding changes in activity-related genes, the researchers found the human brain shows increased expression of genes that protect against activity-related damage. This finding may help explain why humans have the potential to live decades longer than other primates, but also why humans are especially vulnerable to age-related, neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

"It is probable that the combination of long lifespan and high neural activity makes humans particularly vulnerable to neurodegenerative disease," said Mario Caceres, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow now at Emory University and lead investigator on the study. "Activity-related damage accumulates with age and has the potential to cause catastrophic breakdown late in life. By understanding how humans protect their brains from activity-related damage, we hope to better understand why those mechanisms fail."

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University is one of eight National Primate Research Centers funded by the National Institutes of Health. The Yerkes Research Center is a multidisciplinary research institute recognized as a leader in biomedical and behavioral studies with nonhuman primates. Yerkes scientists are on the forefront of developing vaccines for AIDS and malaria, and treatments for cocaine addiction and Parkinson’s disease. Other research programs include cognitive development and decline, childhood visual defects, organ transplantation, the behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy and social behaviors of primates. Leading researchers located worldwide seek to collaborate with Yerkes scientists.


###
We acknowledge support of the National Institute of Mental Health and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

Kelly Duncan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.emory.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>