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Researchers produce detailed map of gene activity in mouse brain
Date:8/24/2011

eps. The researchers first copy processed RNA into a form of DNA, and then sequence the resulting DNA on a second-generation, DNA sequencing instrument. The resulting massive data set must then be analyzed by a cluster of computers to determine which genes have been turned on in the brain cells and to what extent.

The international collaborators have made the new atlas freely available at http://genserv.anat.ox.ac.uk/layers.

By determining the gene activity in each layer, researchers believe it will be possible to connect brain anatomy, genetics and disease processes with greater precision. The research team found that more than half of the genes expressed in the mouse cerebral cortex showed different levels of activity in different layers. These differences point to the areas where specific genes play important roles.

"We found that genes associated with some human diseases were more active in certain layers. For example, we detected genes previously associated with Parkinson's disease in layer five and Alzheimer's disease in layers two and three. These are correlations, not necessarily causal, but they do suggest directions for future research," said T. Grant Belgard, lead author of the paper and an NIH-Oxford fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch. "Knowing the detailed pattern of expression of all genes in the cortex and how this fits into the overall brain architecture will help us understand how genes act together to sustain the cells and circuits that underlie behavior and disease."

Using the technique, researchers detected a vast array of noncoding RNAs. These are RNAs produced from DNA that do not encode proteins, but probably play a critical role in regulating genes and controlling biological processes. Some of these were active in specific layers, and many had not previously been discovered.

The study also further demonstrated the importance of alterna
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Contact: Raymond MacDougall
macdougallr@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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