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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Developing Brains Have Unique Molecular Signatures.

Messenger RNAs, or transcripts, are intermediate products that carry the message from DNA, the genetic blueprint, to create proteins, and ultimately, the many different cell types throughout the brain. Each gene can make several transcripts, which are expressed in patterns unique to each of us. To better understand how these patterns of gene expression influence the developing brain, NIMH supported the first map of how RNA expression changes across the life span through two parallel studies of postmortem brains, ranging in age from two weeks after conception to 80 years old (3, 4). The researchers found that nearly 90% of genes are expressed differently during prenatal development, infancy, and childhood. While each of these stages has a distinct transcriptional identity, the fetal brain looks like a different organ compared to the postnatal brain, with 60% of genes expressed differently and 83% of transcripts processed to make unique proteins. Many of the genetic variations associated with mental illness appear to have a specific effect on the form of the gene expressed uniquely during fetal life.

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