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Alu-minating the Mechanisms Underlying Primate Cortex Evolution


The higher-order cognitive functions observed in primates correlate with the evolutionary enhancement of cortical volume and folding, which in turn are driven by the primate-specific expansion of cellular diversity in the developing cortex. Underlying these changes is the diversification of molecular features including the creation of human and/or primate-specific genes, the activation of specific molecular pathways, and the interplay of diverse layers of gene regulation. We review and discuss evidence for connections between Alu elements and primate brain evolution, the evolutionary milestones of which are known to coincide along primate lineages. Alus are repetitive elements that contribute extensively to the acquisition of novel genes and the expansion of diverse gene regulatory layers, including enhancers, alternative splicing, RNA editing, and microRNA pathways. By reviewing the impact of Alus on molecular features linked to cortical expansions or gyrification or implications in cognitive deficits, we suggest that future research focusing on the role of Alu-derived molecular events in the context of brain development may greatly advance our understanding of higher-order cognitive functions and neurologic disorders.

Type Journal
ISBN 1873-2402 (Electronic) 0006-3223 (Linking)
Authors Wang, J.; Weatheritt, R.; Voineagu, I.
Publisher Name Biol Psychiatry
Published Date 2022-11-30
Published Volume 92
Published Issue 10
Published Pages 760-771
Status Published in-print
DOI 10.1016/j.biopsych.2022.04.021
URL link to publisher's version