Research report 2015 - Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
A gene for bigger brains
Neural stem and progenitor cells and neocortex expansion in development and evolution (Huttner Lab)
SummaryThe gene ARHGAP11B is only found in humans. This gene causes basal brain stem cells to form a bigger pool. In that way, more neurons can be produced during brain development, and the cerebral cortex can expand – this expansion enables higher cognitive functions like thinking and language. Likewise, a sustained expression of the transcription factor Pax6 in basal brain stem cells is crucial for them to proliferate and to produce more neurons. This can be mimicked in mouse cortical stem cells: Their behavior switches to that of primate stem cells, resulting in the generation of more neurons.