Why humans have large brains with higher cognitive abilities is a question long asked by scientists. However, much remains unknown, especially the underlying genetic mechanisms. With the use of a transgenic monkey model, we showed that human-specific sequence changes of a key brain development gene (primary microcephaly1, MCPH1) could result in detectable molecular and cognitive changes resembling human neoteny, a notable characteristic developed during human evolution.
Early brain development after birth is extremely dynamic, suggesting that potential functional changes occur during this period. In this study, the maximal electroshock seizure threshold (MEST) was used to explore the electrophysiological variation among three developmental stages in young mice (no more than 5 weeks old). The induced electroshock seizure (ES) behavior of early postnatal mice (1–2-weeks old) differed from that during weaning (3 weeks old) and early puberty (4–5-weeks old). Thus, we further explored their respective characteristic responses to the ES parameters. When the stimulation current (SC) was limited to 4.0 mA, only the 1–2-week-old mice were induced to exhibit ES behavior at voltages of 30 V and 40 V, indicating they were more sensitive to maximal electroshock seizure (MES) (response to lower voltage). Surprisingly, however, they showed substantially lower mortality than the older groups under higher voltage conditions (60, 100, 160, and 200 V), suggesting better tolerance to the SC. We also found that when the current limit decreased to 3.5 mA, the 4–5-week-olds mice exhibited stable ES behavior with low mortality, while for 3-week-olds mice, the SC limit required to be reduced to 1.5 mA. In conclusion, our findings showed that neural sensitivity to MES was significantly different in young mice before puberty. Thus, greater attention should be given to distinguishing the developmental period of mice, especially in electrophysiological examination.
This research aimed to provide evidence of a relationship between digit ratio and depression status in the cynomolgus monkey (Macaca fascicularis). In stable cynomolgus monkey social groups, we selected 15 depressed monkeys based on depressive-like behavioral criteria and 16 normal control monkeys. All animals were video recorded for two weeks, with the duration and frequency of the core depressive behaviors and 58 other behaviors in 12 behavioral categories then evaluated via behavioral analysis. Finger lengths from the right and left forelimb hands of both groups were measured by X-ray imaging. Finger length and digit ratio comparisons between the two groups were conducted using Student’s t-test. In terms of the duration of each behavior, significant differences emerged in “Huddling” and five other behavioral categories, including Ingestive, Amicable, Parental, Locomotive, and Resting. In addition to the above five behavioral categories, we found that depressed monkeys spent less time in parental and rubbing ‘ and forth behaviors than the control group. Furthermore, the 4th fingers were significantly longer in the left and right hands in the control group relative to the depressed monkeys. The second-to-fourth (2D:4D) digit ratio in the left and right forelimb hands was significantly lower in the control group than that in the depressed group. Our findings revealed significant differences in finger lengths and digit ratios between depressed monkeys and healthy controls, which concords with our view that relatively high fetal testosterone exposure may be a protective factor against developing depressive symptoms (or that low fetal testosterone exposure is a risk factor).
Brain development and aging are associated with alterations in multiple epigenetic systems, including DNA methylation and demethylation patterns. Here, we observed that the levels of the 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) ten-eleven translocation (TET) enzyme-mediated active DNA demethylation products were dynamically changed and involved in postnatal brain development and aging in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri chinensis). The levels of 5hmC in multiple anatomic structures showed a gradual increase throughout postnatal development, whereas a significant decrease in 5hmC was found in several brain regions in aged tree shrews, including in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, but not the cerebellum. Active changes in Tet mRNA levels indicated that TET2 and TET3 predominantly contributed to the changes in 5hmC levels. Our findings provide new insight into the dynamic changes in 5hmC levels in tree shrew brains during postnatal development and aging processes.
Viral vector transfection systems are among the simplest of biological agents with the ability to transfer genes into the central nervous system. In brain research, a series of powerful and novel gene editing technologies are based on these systems. Although many viral vectors are used in rodents, their full application has been limited in non-human primates. To identify viral vectors that can stably and effectively express exogenous genes within non-human primates, eleven commonly used recombinant adeno-associated viral and lentiviral vectors, each carrying a gene to express green or red fluorescence, were injected into the parietal cortex of four rhesus monkeys. The expression of fluorescent cells was used to quantify transfection efficiency. Histological results revealed that recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors, especially the serotype 2/9 coupled with the cytomegalovirus, human synapsin I, or Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II promoters, and lentiviral vector coupled with the human ubiquitin C promoter, induced higher expression of fluorescent cells, representing high transfection efficiency. This is the first comparison of transfection efficiencies of different viral vectors carrying different promoters and serotypes in non-human primates (NHPs). These results can be used as an aid to select optimal vectors to transfer exogenous genes into the central nervous system of non-human primates.
Early rearing experiences are important in one's whole life, whereas early adverse rearing experience(EARE) is usually related to various physical and mental disorders in later life. Although there were many studies on human and animals, regarding the effect of EARE on brain development, neuroendocrine systems, as well as the consequential mental disorders and behavioral abnormalities, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Due to the close genetic relationship and similarity in social organizations with humans, non-human primate(NHP) studies were performed for over 60 years. Various EARE models were developed to disrupt the early normal interactions between infants and mothers or peers. Those studies provided important insights of EARE induced effects on the physiological and behavioral systems of NHPs across life span, such as social behaviors(including disturbance behavior, social deficiency, sexual behavior, etc), learning and memory ability, brain structural and functional developments(including influences on neurons and glia cells, neuroendocrine systems, e.g., hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal(HPA) axis, etc). In this review, the effects of EARE and the underlying epigenetic mechanisms were comprehensively summarized and the possibility of rehabilitation was discussed.
The Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway plays a crucial role in the embryonic development of metazoans. Although the pathway has been studied extensively in many model animals, its function in amphioxus, the most primitive chordate, remains largely uncharacterized. To obtain basic data for functional analysis, we identified and isolated seven genes (Lrp5/6, Dvl, APC, CkIα, CkIδ, Gsk3β, and Gro) of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway from the amphioxus (Branchiostoma floridae) genome. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that amphioxus had fewer members of each gene family than that found in vertebrates. Whole-mount in situ hybridization showed that the genes were maternally expressed and broadly distributed throughout the whole embryo at the cleavage and blastula stages. Among them, Dvl was expressed asymmetrically towards the animal pole, while the others were evenly distributed in all blastomeres. At the mid-gastrula stage, the genes were specifically expressed in the primitive endomesoderm, but displayed different patterns. When the embryo developed into the neurula stage, the gene expressions were mainly detected in either paraxial somites or the tail bud. With the development of the embryo, the expression levels further decreased gradually and remained only in some pharyngeal regions or the tail bud at the larva stage. Our results suggest that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway might be involved in amphioxus somite formation and posterior growth, but not in endomesoderm specification.
：Revealing how molecular mechanisms influence higher brain circuits in primates will be essential for understanding how genetic insults lead to increased risk of cognitive disorders. Traditionally, modulatory influences on higher cortical circuits have been examined using lesion techniques, where a brain region is depleted of a particular transmitter to determine how its loss impacts cognitive function. For example, depletion of catecholamines or acetylcholine from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex produces striking deficits in working memory abilities. More directed techniques have utilized direct infusions of drug into a specific cortical site to try to circumvent compensatory changes that are common following transmitter depletion. The effects of drug on neuronal firing patterns are often studied using iontophoresis, where a minute amount of drug is moved into the brain using a tiny electrical current, thus minimizing the fluid flow that generally disrupts neuronal recordings. All of these approaches can be compared to systemic drug administration, which remains a key arena for the development of effective therapeutics for human cognitive disorders. Most recently, viral techniques are being developed to be able to manipulate proteins for which there is no developed pharmacology, and to allow optogenetic manipulations in primate cortex. As the association cortices greatly expand in brain evolution, research in nonhuman primates is particularly important for understanding the modulatory regulation of our highest order cognitive operations.
Gender and genetic strain are two prominent variants that influence drug abuse. Although certain sex-related behavioral responses have been previously characterized in ICR mice, little is known about the effects of sex on morphine-induced behavioral responses in this outbred strain. Therefore, in this study, we investigated the sex differences of morphine-induced locomotion, anxiety-like and social behaviors in ICR mice. After morphine or saline exposure for four consecutive days (twice daily), increased locomotion, more time spent in the central area, as well as attenuated rearing and self-grooming behaviors were found in morphine-treated females in an open field; no differences were found in locomotion and the time spent in the central area between male and female controls. When interacting with the same-sex individuals, female controls were engaged in more social investigation, following, body contacting and self-grooming behaviors than controls; morphine exposure reduced contacting and self-grooming behaviors in females; in contrast, these effects were not found in males. These results indicate that female ICR mice are more prosocial and are more susceptible to morphine exposure than males.
To explore the neural mechanisms mediating aging-related visual function declines, we compared the expressions of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its high affinity receptor-tyrosine kinase B (TrkB) between young and old adult cats. Nissl staining was used to display neurons in each layer of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN). The BDNF- and TrkB receptor-immunoreactive neurons were labeled immunohistochemically, observed under optical microscope and photographed. Their neuronal density and immunoreactive intensity were measured. Results showed that the mean density of the Nissl stained neurons in each LGN layer were comparable between old and young adult cats, and their BDNF and TrkB proteins were widely expressed in all LGN layers. However, compared with young adult cats, both the density and optical absorbance intensity of BDNF- and TrkB-immunoreactive cells in each LGN layer in old cats were significantly decreased. These findings indicate that the decreased expressions of BDNF and TrkB proteins in the LGN may be an important factor inducing the compromised inhibition in the central visual nucleus and the functional visual decline in senescent individuals.
Copyright © 2016 Editorial Office of ZOOLOGICAL RESEARCH