Scientists chart gene expression in the brain across lifespan

October 28, 2011, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

The "switching on" or expression of specific genes in the human genome is what makes each human tissue and each human being unique. A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, and the National Institute of Mental Health found that many gene expression changes that occur during fetal development are reversed immediately after birth. Reversals of fetal expression changes are also seen again much later in life during normal aging of the brain.

Additionally, the team observed the reversal of fetal expression changes in Alzheimer's disease findings reported in other studies. The research team also found that change is fastest in human brain tissue during fetal development, slows down through childhood and adolescence, stabilizes in adulthood, and then speeds up again after age 50, with distinct redirection of expression changes prior to birth and in . Their findings are published in the Oct. 27, 2011, edition of Nature.

All of the data are available to the public as a web-based resource at: http://www.libd.org/braincloud.

Using a number of genomic analysis technologies, the research team conducted genome-wide genetic (DNA) and gene expression (RNA) analyses of brain tissue samples from the . Tissue represented the various stages of the human lifespan.

"We think that these coordinated changes in gene expression connecting fetal development with aging and neurodegeneration are central to how the genome constructs the human brain and how the brain ages," said Carlo Colantuoni, PhD, one of the lead authors of the study and a former research associate with the Department of Biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Colantuoni recently joined the Lieber Institute for on the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.

The research also showed that gene expression differences between genetically diverse individuals (of different races, for example) are no greater than the differences between individuals sharing many more genetic traits.

"Our findings highlight the fact that current technologies and analysis methods can address the effects of individual genetic traits in isolation, but we have virtually no understanding of how our many millions of genetic traits work in concert with one another," added Colantuoni.

Explore further: Found in the developing brain: Mental health risk genes and gender differences

Related Stories

Found in the developing brain: Mental health risk genes and gender differences

October 26, 2011
Most genes associated with psychiatric illnesses are expressed before birth in the developing human brain, a massive study headed by Yale University researchers discovered. In addition, hundreds of genetic differences were ...

Our brains are made of the same stuff, despite DNA differences

October 26, 2011
Despite vast differences in the genetic code across individuals and ethnicities, the human brain shows a "consistent molecular architecture," say researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health. The finding is ...

Study reveals new link between Alzheimer's disease and healthy aging

August 15, 2011
Alzheimer's disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) are two of the most prevalent forms of neurodegenerative disorders. In a study published online today in Genome Research, researchers have analyzed changes ...

Recommended for you

How incurable mitochondrial diseases strike previously unaffected families

January 15, 2018
Researchers have shown for the first time how children can inherit a severe - potentially fatal - mitochondrial disease from a healthy mother. The study, led by researchers from the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit at the University ...

Genes that aid spinal cord healing in lamprey also present in humans

January 15, 2018
Many of the genes involved in natural repair of the injured spinal cord of the lamprey are also active in the repair of the peripheral nervous system in mammals, according to a study by a collaborative group of scientists ...

The coming of age of gene therapy: A review of the past and path forward

January 11, 2018
After three decades of hopes tempered by setbacks, gene therapy—the process of treating a disease by modifying a person's DNA—is no longer the future of medicine, but is part of the present-day clinical treatment toolkit. ...

Large-scale study to pinpoint genes linked to obesity

January 10, 2018
It's not just diet and physical activity; your genes also determine how easily you lose or gain weight. In a study published in the January issue of Nature Genetics, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai ...

Identical twins can share more than identical genes

January 9, 2018
An international group of researchers has discovered a new phenomenon that occurs in identical twins: independent of their identical genes, they share an additional level of molecular similarity that influences their biological ...

Hereditary facial features could be strongly influenced by a single gene variant, a new study finds

January 9, 2018
Do you have your grandmother's eyes? Or your father's nose? A new study by the Universities of Oxford and Surrey has uncovered variations in singular genes that have a large impact on human facial features, paving the way ...

0 comments

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.