Evolution of Brain Active Gene Promoters in Human Lineage Towards the Increased Plasticity of Gene Regulation

Konstantin V. Gunbin, Mikhail P. Ponomarenko, Valentin V. Suslov, Fedor Gusev, Gennady G. Fedonin, Evgeny I. Rogaev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Adaptability to a variety of environmental conditions is a prominent feature of Homo sapiens. We hypothesize that this feature can be explained by evolutionary changes in gene promoters active in the brain prefrontal cortex leading to a more flexible gene regulation network. The genotype-dependent range of gene expression can be broader in humans than in other higher primates. Thus, we searched for specific signatures of evolutionary changes in promoter architectures of multiple hominid genes, including the genes active in human cortical neurons that may indicate an increase of variability of gene expression rather than just changes in the level of expression, such as downregulation or upregulation of the genes. We performed a whole-genome search for genetic-based alterations that may impact gene regulation “flexibility” in a process of hominids evolution, such as (i) CpG dinucleotide content, (ii) predicted nucleosome-DNA dissociation constant, and (iii) predicted affinities for TATA-binding protein (TBP) in gene promoters. We tested all putative promoter regions across the human genome and especially gene promoters in active chromatin state in neurons of prefrontal cortex, the brain region critical for abstract thinking and social and behavioral adaptation. Our data imply that the origin of modern man has been associated with an increase of flexibility of promoter-driven gene regulation in brain. In contrast, after splitting from the ancestral lineages of H. sapiens, the evolution of ape species is characterized by reduced flexibility of gene promoter functioning, underlying reduced variability of the gene expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1871-1904
Number of pages34
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Core promoters
  • Gene evolution
  • Gene regulation
  • Genotype
  • Hominids
  • Norm of reaction


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