Analysis of synaptic gene expression in the neocortex of primates reveals evolutionary changes in glutamatergic neurotransmission

Gerard Muntané, Julie E. Horvath, Patrick R. Hof, John J. Ely, William D. Hopkins, Mary Ann Raghanti, Albert H. Lewandowski, Gregory A. Wray, Chet C. Sherwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Increased relative brain size characterizes the evolution of primates, suggesting that enhanced cognition plays an important part in the behavioral adaptations of this mammalian order. In addition to changes in brain anatomy, cognition can also be regulated by molecular changes that alter synaptic function, but little is known about modifications of synapses in primate brain evolution. The aim of the current study was to investigate the expression patterns and evolution of 20 synaptic genes from the prefrontal cortex of 12 primate species. The genes investigated included glutamate receptors, scaffolding proteins, synaptic vesicle components, as well as factors involved in synaptic vesicle release and structural components of the nervous system. Our analyses revealed that there have been significant changes during primate brain evolution in the components of the glutamatergic signaling pathway in terms of gene expression, protein expression, and promoter sequence changes. These results could entail functional modifications in the regulation of specific genes related to processes underlying learning and memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1596-1607
Number of pages12
JournalCerebral Cortex
Volume25
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015

Keywords

  • brain evolution
  • glutamatergic neurotransmission
  • prefrontal cortex
  • synapse

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