10:04 am - Tuesday December 12, 2017

Gene expression in male and female brains explains sex differences in brain disorders

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Gene expression in male and female brains explains sex differences in brain disorders
Gene expression in male and female brains explains sex differences in brain disorders

Washington – Researchers 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 brain 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.

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

Overall, the study suggested 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:
“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.”

The study is in Nature Communications.

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