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Evolutionarily Preserved Signature Found In The Primate Brain

ScienceDaily (June 24, 2008) — Researchers have determined that there are 
hundreds of biological differences between the sexes when it comes to gene 
expression in the cerebral cortex of humans and other primates. These findings 
indicate that some of these differences arose a very long time ago and have 
been preserved through evolution.

These conserved differences constitute a signature of sex differences in the 

Many more obvious gender differences have been preserved throughout primate 
evolution; examples include average body size and weight, and genitalia design. 
This study, believed to be the first of its kind, focuses on gene expression 
within the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is involved in many of the more 
complex functions in both humans and other primates, including memory, 
attentiveness, thought processes and language.

The researchers measured gene expression in the brains of male and female 
primates from three species: humans, macaques, and marmosets. To measure 
activity of specific genes, the products of genes (RNA) obtained from the brain 
of each animal were hybridized to microarrays containing thousands of DNA 
clones coding for thousands of genes. The authors also investigated DNA 
sequence differences among primates for genes showing different levels of 
expression between the sexes.

"Knowledge about gender differences is important for many reasons. For example, 
this information may be used in the future to calculate medical dosages, as 
well as for other treatments of diseases or damage to the brain," says team 
leader Professor Elena Jazin, at Uppsala University, Sweden.

In addition to the results mentioned above, the researchers also report on 
evolutionary speeds in genes that have been identified as male or 
female-oriented. This could provide clues about the power of natural selection 
processes during the evolution of primates.

Lead author Björn Reinius notes that the study does not determine whether these 
differences in gene expression are in any way functionally significant. Such 
questions remain to be answered by future studies.

Journal reference:

   1. Reinius B, Saetre P, Leonard JA, Blekhman R, Merino-Martinez R, et al. 
Evolutionarily Conserved Sexual Signature in the Primate Brain. PLoS Genetics, 
4(6): e1000100 [link]

Adapted from materials provided by Uppsala University, via EurekAlert!, a 
service of AAAS.
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Uppsala University (2008, June 24). Evolutionarily Preserved Signature Found In 
The Primate Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 23, 2009, from 
http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/06/080619203301.htm

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