Archives for RIKEN Jun Aruga Laboratory (Lab for Comparative Neurogenesis/Behavioral and Developmental Disorders, 2004-2013)
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Brain and Genetic Information
We are trying to understand the developmental processes that contribute to brain formation. The basic program for this development is contained within our genetic information. Yet, we still do not understand the essence of the pieces of this genetic information that are essential for proper brain development. However, the Human Genome Project and other such projects have yield enormously valuable information on genetic sequences that neuroscientists can now exploit. We are privileged to have these data available for our research.
Human beings are not the only animal species with nervous systems. All vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) have brains that are derived from three vesicles located in the anterior end of the neural tube. Invertebrates lack an organ we call a brain, but these creatures do have nervous systems that vary in their complexity. These systems can be rather diffuse, such as those which are found in jellyfish, or more centralizes like those found in squid. Each animal’s nervous system is highly adapted to its body structure and lifestyle with remarkable sophistication.
We have been utilizing comparative genomics approach to our questions about brain development. Inter-species genomic comparisons can be easily carried out in those species that have been targeted by various genome projects. We are particularly interested in sequences that have been conserved across species and how this conservation reveals or informs species relationships. Conserved sequences are select parts of genomic information that have not changed with evolution. They often contain protein-coding regions and the regulatory sequences which are necessary for gene expression regulation, hence they are biologically important. By comparing the genes controlling brain and nervous system development in various animals, we can extract the genetic information necessary for the development of nervous systems.
New Laboratory Name, “Laboratory for Behavioral and Developmental Disorders”
Nearly five years have passed since the initiation of this laboratory. At the laboratory review in the summer of 2007, we fortunately received high evaluation remarks from the review committee composed of several authorities in neurobiology, developmental biology and biochemistry fields. We are now entering the second term that benefits from the achievement in the first five years. In our experiences to date, the comparative genomics approach is particularly useful for the identification of the genes required for the brain development and function. Such genes are mostly related to occurrence of the neurodevelopmental or neuropsychiatric disorders. This is our working hypothesis, being supported by recent our results. Several disease model animals are being generated in this laboratory. They are investigated in terms of their developmental and brain function-related abnormalities. More than half of the laboratory members are now working on the behavioral analyses of the disease model mutant animals. In 2008, the laboratory name was changed into “Laboratory for Behavioral and Developmental Disorders” (formerly, Laboratory for Comparative Neurogenesis), reflecting the recent activities of the laboratory members more faithfully.