Breakthrough method yields trove of neuron subtypes, gene regulators
Molecular profiling may be key to compiling brain’s “parts list”.
With funding from the National Institutes of Health's BRAIN Initiative, researchers have discovered a trove of neuronal subtypes and gene regulators, using a new method they developed. It allows for the discovery of subtypes based on their unique profiles of molecular switches that regulate gene expression within the cell. This opens the door to potentially discovering changes in such profiles linked to brain disorders, say the researchers.
The new method profiles molecular changes to the DNA (the genetic blueprint) known as epigenetic regulation. This is accomplished by sequencing the neuronal genomes in a way that detects modified DNA, producing a signature called the methylome. It turns out that each cell type has a unique methylome, even though the DNA itself is the same in every cell.
In the frontal cortex, the researchers identified 16 neuronal subtypes in mice and 21 subtypes in humans. Neurons that slow down brain activity were found to share more regulatory elements across mice and humans than neurons that speed up brain activity. Some of the latter excitatory neuron types appear to be unique to humans.
Andrea Beckel Mitchener, Ph.D.,NIMH Functional Neurogenomics Program
August 10, 2017
ingle-cell methylomes identify neuronal subtypes and regulatory elements in mammalian brain. Luo D, Keown CL, Kurihara L, Zhou J, He Y, Li J, Castanon R Lucero J, Nery JR, Sandoval JP, Bui B, Sejnowski TJ, Harkins TT, Mukamel EA, Behrens MM, Ecker JR. Science 2017 Aug 10
MH105985, MH112161, HG009274, MH020002
About the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): The mission of the(NIMH) is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the NIMH website.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
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