You are here: Home Publications Left-right asymmetry of maturation rates in human embryonic neural development

Left-right asymmetry of maturation rates in human embryonic neural development

De Kovel, C. G. F., Lisgo, S., Karlebach, G., Ju, J., Cheng, G., Fisher, S. E., & Francks, C. (2017). Left-right asymmetry of maturation rates in human embryonic neural development. Biological Psychiatry. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.01.016.
Background Left-right asymmetry is a fundamental organizing feature of the human brain, and neuro-psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia sometimes involve alterations of brain asymmetry. As early as 8 weeks post conception, the majority of human fetuses move their right arms more than their left arms, but because nerve fibre tracts are still descending from the forebrain at this stage, spinal-muscular asymmetries are likely to play an important developmental role. Methods We used RNA sequencing to measure gene expression levels in the left and right spinal cords, and left and right hindbrains, of 18 post-mortem human embryos aged 4-8 weeks post conception. Genes showing embryonic lateralization were tested for an enrichment of signals in genome-wide association data for schizophrenia. Results The left side of the embryonic spinal cord was found to mature faster than the right side. Both sides transitioned from transcriptional profiles associated with cell division and proliferation at earlier stages, to neuronal differentiation and function at later stages, but the two sides were not in synchrony (p = 2.2 E-161). The hindbrain showed a left-right mirrored pattern compared to the spinal cord, consistent with the well-known crossing over of function between these two structures. Genes that showed lateralization in the embryonic spinal cord were enriched for association signals with schizophrenia (p = 4.3 E-05). Conclusions These are the earliest-stage left-right differences of human neural development ever reported. Disruption of the lateralised developmental programme may play a role in the genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia.

Supplementary materials

About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

Street address
Wundtlaan 1
6525 XD Nijmegen
The Netherlands


Mailing address
P.O. Box 310
6500 AH Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Phone:   +31-24-3521911
Fax:        +31-24-3521213
E-mail:   


Public Outreach Officer
Charlotte Horn