Researchers find an evolutionarily preserved signature in the primate brain

Jun 20, 2008

Researchers have determined that there are hundreds of biological differences between the sexes when it comes to gene expression in the cerebral cortex of humans and other primates. These findings, published June 20th in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, indicate that some of these differences arose a very long time ago and have been preserved through evolution. These conserved differences constitute a signature of sex differences in the brain.

Many more obvious gender differences have been preserved throughout primate evolution; examples include average body size and weight, and genitalia design. This study, believed to be the first of its kind, focuses on gene expression within the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is involved in many of the more complex functions in both humans and other primates, including memory, attentiveness, thought processes and language.

The researchers measured gene expression in the brains of male and female primates from three species: humans, macaques, and marmosets. To measure activity of specific genes, the products of genes (RNA) obtained from the brain of each animal were hybridized to microarrays containing thousands of DNA clones coding for thousands of genes. The authors also investigated DNA sequence differences among primates for genes showing different levels of expression between the sexes.

"Knowledge about gender differences is important for many reasons. For example, this information may be used in the future to calculate medical dosages, as well as for other treatments of diseases or damage to the brain," says team leader Professor Elena Jazin, at Uppsala University, Sweden.

In addition to the results mentioned above, the researchers also report on evolutionary speeds in genes that have been identified as male or female-oriented. This could provide clues about the power of natural selection processes during the evolution of primates.

Lead author Björn Reinius notes that the study does not determine whether these differences in gene expression are in any way functionally significant. Such questions remain to be answered by future studies.

Source: Uppsala University

Explore further: Infant failure to thrive linked to lysosome dysfunction

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Supercomputing the evolution of a model flower

5 hours ago

Scientists using supercomputers found genes sensitive to cold and drought in a plant help it survive climate change. These findings increase basic understanding of plant adaptation and can be applied to improve ...

Solving the Hox Specificity Paradox

Jan 22, 2015

The remarkable diversity of anatomical features along the body axis of animals—the differences between the head, the thorax and the abdomen, for example—is determined by proteins in the Hox family. But ...

New computation method helps identify functional DNA

Jan 21, 2015

Striving to unravel and comprehend DNA's biological significance, Cornell scientists have created a new computational method that can identify positions in the human genome that play a role in the proper ...

Recommended for you

Infant failure to thrive linked to lysosome dysfunction

6 hours ago

Neonatal intestinal disorders that prevent infants from getting the nutrients they need may be caused by defects in the lysosomal system that occur before weaning, according to a new Northwestern Medicine ...

Gene may open door for improved keloid, scar treatment

Jan 23, 2015

Researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit have identified a gene that may offer a better understanding of how keloid scars develop and potentially open the door to improved treatment for the often painful, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.