Evolution of neuronal and endothelial transcriptomes in primates

Thomas Giger, Philipp Khaitovich, Mehmet Somel, Anna Lorenc, Esther Lizano, Laura W. Harris, Margaret M. Ryan, Martin Lan, Matthew T. Wayland, Sabine Bahn, Svante Pääbo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The study of gene expression evolution in vertebrates has hitherto focused on the analysis of transcriptomes in tissues of different species. However, because a tissue is made up of different cell types, and cell types differ with respect to their transcriptomes, the analysis of tissues offers a composite picture of transcriptome evolution. The isolation of individual cells from tissue sections opens up the opportunity to study gene expression evolution at the cell type level. We have stained neurons and endothelial cells in human brains by antibodies against cell type-specific marker proteins, isolated the cells using laser capture microdissection, and identified genes preferentially expressed in the two cell types. We analyze these two classes of genes with respect to their expression in 62 different human tissues, with respect to their expression in 44 human "postmortem" brains from different developmental stages and with respect to between-species brain expression differences. We find that genes preferentially expressed in neurons differ less across tissues and developmental stages than genes preferentially expressed in endothelial cells. We also observe less expression differences within primate species for neuronal transcriptomes. In stark contrast, we see more gene expression differences between humans, chimpanzees, and rhesus macaques relative to within-species differences in genes expressed preferentially in neurons than in genes expressed in endothelial cells. This suggests that neuronal and endothelial transcriptomes evolve at different rates within brain tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-292
Number of pages9
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain
  • Evo-devo
  • Evolution
  • Neuron
  • Primate
  • Transcriptomics


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