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

November 22, 2013

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

Scientists provide insight into genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders

July 21, 2017
A study by scientists at the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) is providing insight into the genetic basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. In this research, the first mouse model of a mutation ...

Scientists identify new way cells turn off genes

July 19, 2017
Cells have more than one trick up their sleeve for controlling certain genes that regulate fetal growth and development.

South Asian genomes could be boon for disease research, scientists say

July 18, 2017
The Indian subcontinent's massive population is nearing 1.5 billion according to recent accounts. But that population is far from monolithic; it's made up of nearly 5,000 well-defined sub-groups, making the region one of ...

Mutant yeast reveals details of the aberrant genomic machinery of children's high-grade gliomas

July 18, 2017
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital biologists have used engineered yeast cells to discover how a mutation that is frequently found in pediatric brain tumor high-grade glioma triggers a cascade of genomic malfunctions.

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Newly discovered gene variants link innate immunity and Alzheimer's disease

July 17, 2017
Three new gene variants, found in a genome wide association study of Alzheimer's disease (AD), point to the brain's immune cells in the onset of the disorder. These genes encode three proteins that are found in microglia, ...

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.