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Book of Abstracts: Albany 2009

category image Albany 2009
Conversation 16
June 16-20 2009
© Adenine Press (2008)

Evolution of the Central Nervous System: Comparative Gene Expressionics Approach

With the aim of the elucidating the evolutionary origin and process of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the brain, we take both approaches of comparative genomics and gene expressionics.

In practice, we first obtained about 400 protein-coding genes whose level of the mRNA expression is more than 50% in a human brain or CNS compared with those in other tissues or organs in the H-ANGEL (Human-Anatomical Gene Expression Library) section of the H-Invitational integrated database of human genes. We now call those genes operationally as ?human nervous system-specific genes (human NS-specific genes).? We compared these human NS-specific genes with the protein-coding genes that were contained in each of the complete genomes of the species examined, in order to estimate when each of the human NS-specific genes emerged during evolution. As a result, we found that about one thirds of the human NS-specific genes evolutionarily emerged just before the outbreak of bony fish. It follows that there was a kind of explosive emergence of NS-specific genes just before evolutionary appearance of bony fish, leading to initial formation of a complex and integrated brain and CNS.

Moreover, we examined the genes expressed in a planarian head by use of the EST analysis of about 25,000 gene clones and the so-called ?gene expression chip?, because the planarian is known as having the most primitive brain. As a result, we obtained about 120 genes that were specifically expressed in a planarian head. We, then, found that a majority of those genes had shared strong sequence homologies with human genes, suggesting that the genes potentially forming the human brain have already existed as the ancestral genes.

We also identified about 250 genes specifically expressed in the neural cells and motion-controlling cells (nematocytes) of hydra by making a chip of about 6,500 hydra genes, because hydra does not have any central nervous system and have only a dispersed neural system. We found that a half of those 250 genes in hydra shared the known functions with higher organisms including human.

Thus, I would discuss the evolutionary origin and process of the brain and central nervous system, taking into account those genes that are expressed specifically in the neural systems of those primitive organisms. In particular, I would make emphasis on usefulness of the comparative gene expressionics approach of hydra and planarian for understanding the evolutionary process of CNS and the brain of vertebrates including human.

Takashi Gojobori

Center for Information Biology and DDBJ (DNA Data Bank of Japan)
National Institute of Genetics
1,111 Yata, Mishima 411-8540, Japan

Phone: +81-55-981-6847
Fax: +81-55-981-6848
email Takashi Gojobori