Different gene expression in male and female brains may help explain sex differences in brain disorder

November 22, 2013, University College London

UCL scientists have shown that there are widespread differences in how genes, the basic building blocks of the human body, are expressed in men and women's brains.

Based on post-mortem adult human and spinal cord samples from over 100 individuals, scientists at the UCL Institute of Neurology were able to study the expression of every gene in 12 brain regions. The results are published today in Nature Communications.

They found that the way that the are expressed in the brains of men and women were different in all major and these differences involved 2.5% of all the genes expressed in the brain.

Among the many results, the researchers specifically looked at the gene NRXN3, which has been implicated in autism. The gene is transcribed into two major forms and the study results show that although one form is expressed similarly in both men and women, the other is produced at lower levels in women in the area of the brain called the thalamus. This observation could be important in understanding the higher incidence of autism in males.

Overall, the study suggests that there is a sex-bias in the way that genes are expressed and regulated, leading to different functionality and differences in susceptibility to brain diseases observed by neurologists and psychiatrists.

Dr. Mina Ryten, UCL Institute of Neurology and senior author of the paper, said: "There is strong evidence to show that men and women differ in terms of their susceptibility to neurological diseases, but up until now the basis of that difference has been unclear.

"Our study provides the most complete information so far on how the sexes differ in terms of how their genes are expressed in the brain. We have released our data so that others can assess how any gene they are interested in is expressed differently between ."

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

More information: Widespread sex differences in gene expression and splicing in the adult human brain is scheduled for publication in Nature Communications on 22 November.

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 ...

Sex differences in kidney gene expression

July 31, 2013
Male and female rats show different patterns of kidney gene expression throughout their lives, a study in the open access journal Biology of Sex Differences reveals. The finding could help explain some of the gender differences ...

Team first to map autism-risk genes by function

November 21, 2013
Pity the poor autism researcher. Recent studies have linked hundreds of gene mutations scattered throughout the brain to increased autism risk. Where do you start?

Autism blurs distinctions between brain regions

June 3, 2011
Autism blurs the molecular differences that normally distinguish different brain regions, a new study suggests. Among more than 500 genes that are normally expressed at significantly different levels in the front versus the ...

Women's chronic pain is more complex, more severe

October 24, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—New research from the University of Adelaide has found that chronic pain in women is more complex and harder to treat than chronic pain in men.

Autism affects different parts of the brain in women and men

August 8, 2013
Autism affects different parts of the brain in females with autism than males with autism, a new study reveals. The research is published today in the journal Brain as an open-access article.

Recommended for you

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Group recreates DNA of man who died in 1827 despite having no body to work with

January 16, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a group with deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company in Iceland, has partly recreated the DNA of a man who died in 1827, despite having no body to take tissue samples from. ...

The surprising role of gene architecture in cell fate decisions

January 16, 2018
Scientists read the code of life—the genome—as a sequence of letters, but now researchers have also started exploring its three-dimensional organisation. In a paper published in Nature Genetics, an interdisciplinary research ...

Study advances gene therapy for glaucoma

January 16, 2018
While testing genes to treat glaucoma by reducing pressure inside the eye, University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists stumbled onto a problem: They had trouble getting efficient gene delivery to the cells that act like drains ...

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 ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JVK
1 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2013
"The first and most important finding of this study is that once we account for alternative splicing, sex-biased gene expression in the adult human brain is widespread both in terms of the number of genes and range of brain regions involved." http://dx.doi.org...omms3771

Been there; done that, in 1996! http://www.ncbi.n.../9047261
"Small intranuclear proteins also participate in generating alternative splicing techniques of pre-mRNA and, by this mechanism, contribute to sexual differentiation in at least two species, Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. That similar proteins perform functions in humans suggests the possibility that some human sex differences may arise from alternative splicings of otherwise identical genes."

Sex differences and species differences are altered by epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input. The biases in gene expression are tractable back to yeasts at the advent of sex differences.

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.