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A High Density of Human Communication-Associated Genes in Chromosome 7q31-q36: Differential Expression in Human and Non-Human Primate CorticesSchneider E.a · Jensen L.R.b · Farcas R.c · Kondova I.f · Bontrop R.E.f · Navarro B.d · Fuchs E.e · Kuss A.W.b · Haaf T.a
aInstitute of Human Genetics, Julius Maximilians University, Würzburg, bInterfaculty Institute for Genetics and Functional Genomics, Ernst Moritz Arndt University, Greifswald, cInstitute for Cardiovascular Regeneration, Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main, dInstitute of Legal Medicine, University Medical Center, Mainz, and eGerman Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany; fBiomedical Primate Research Center, Rijswijk, The Netherlands
The human brain is distinguished by its remarkable size, high energy consumption, and cognitive abilities compared to all other mammals and non-human primates. However, little is known about what has accelerated brain evolution in the human lineage. One possible explanation is that the appearance of advanced communication skills and language has been a driving force of human brain development. The phenotypic adaptations in brain structure and function which occurred on the way to modern humans may be associated with specific molecular signatures in today’s human genome and/or transcriptome. Genes that have been linked to language, reading, and/or autism spectrum disorders are prime candidates when searching for genes for human-specific communication abilities. The database and genome-wide expression analyses we present here revealed a clustering of such communication-associated genes (COAG) on human chromosomes X and 7, in particular chromosome 7q31-q36. Compared to the rest of the genome, we found a high number of COAG to be differentially expressed in the cortices of humans and non-human primates (chimpanzee, baboon, and/or marmoset). The role of X-linked genes for the development of human-specific cognitive abilities is well known. We now propose that chromosome 7q31-q36 also represents a hot spot for the evolution of human-specific communication abilities. Selective pressure on the T cell receptor beta locus on chromosome 7q34, which plays a pivotal role in the immune system, could have led to rapid dissemination of positive gene variants in hitchhiking COAG.
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