Understanding the genetic basis of the physical and behavioral traits that separate humans from other primates is a challenging but intriguing topic. The adaptive functions of the expansion and/or reduction in human brain size have long been explored. From a brain transcriptome project we have identified a KRAB-Zn finger protein-encoding gene (M003-A06) that has rapidly evolved since the human-chimpanzee separation. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of different human tissues indicates that M003-A06 expression is enriched in the human fetal brain in addition to the fetal heart. Furthermore, analysis with use of immunofluorescence staining, neurosphere culturing and Western blotting indicates that the mouse ortholog of M003-A06, Zfp568, is expressed mainly in the embryonic stem (ES) cells and fetal as well as adult neural stem cells (NSCs). Conditional gene knockout experiments in mice demonstrates that Zfp568 is both an NSC maintaining- and a brain size-regulating gene. Significantly, molecular genetic analyses show that human M003-A06 consists of 2 equilibrated allelic types, H and C, one of which (H) is human-specific. Combined contemporary genotyping and database mining have revealed interesting genetic associations between the different genotypes of M003-A06 and the human head sizes. We propose that M003-A06 is likely one of the genes contributing to the uniqueness of the human brain in comparison to other higher primates.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)