Science Questions

Genes just for the brain?

Fri, 14th Dec 2012

Part of the show The Genetics of Brain and Behaviour


Teo Gibson and Anne Cannon, Facebook asked:

“do we know how many genes are expressed in the brain and is there an overlap with the genes that are expressed elsewhere in the body?”



Dr John Rogers (Cambridge University) -   Well, yes, there are a lot of genes expressed in the brain.  Most of the genes are expressed in the brain and there is a lot of overlap between the expression there and elsewhere in the body. 

That’s largely because the cells in the brain all need the same as it were housekeeping functions that other types of cells do, and there are thousands of genes expressed for that purpose throughout the body. 

And also, in the development of the brain, many of the signals that are used are the same as in developing other organs of the body.  There are genetic control systems that are used for many different purposes in different organs.  One reason why the brain has so many genes expressed is, it has so many different types of nerve cells and so, most of these genetic control systems are used somewhere in the brain.

What is unique about the nervous system is the collection of ion channels and neurotransmitters which allow nerve cells to transmit signals and to receive signals.  And the genes for these account for many of the genes that are specifically expressed in the nervous system.



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