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A new study has found that many gene expression changes (genes that are turned on) that occur during fetal development are reversed immediately after birth; research was conducted at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Reversals of fetal expression changes are also seen again much later in life during normal aging of the brain. The team also observed the reversal of fetal expression changes during Alzheimer’s disease through the findings reported in other studies.
While gene expression is fastest in human brain tissue during fetal development, it slows down through childhood and adolescence and stabilizes in adulthood, but then speeds up again after age 50, with distinct peaks of redirection expression prior to birth and in early adulthood.
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 prefrontal cortex. 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.
The research also showed that brain gene expression differences between different races (or more genetically diverse individuals) are no greater than the differences between individuals sharing many 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.
Authors of "Temporal Dynamics and Genetic Control of Transcription in Human Prefontal Cortex" are Carlo Colantuoni, Barbara Lipska, Tianzhang Ye, Thomas M. Hyde, Ran Tao, Jeffrey T. Leek, Elizabeth Colantuoni, Abdel G. Elkahloun, Mary M. Herman, Daniel R. Weinberger and Joel E. Kleinman. Carlo Colantuoni recently joined the Lieber Institute for Brain Development on the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.
Funding for the research was provided by the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, Baltimore, Maryland USA and the Intramural Research Program in the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health.
Original article: http://www.jhsph.edu/publichealthnews/press_releases/2011/colantouni_brain.html