Analysis of Synaptic Gene Expression in the Neocortex of Primates Reveals Evolutionary Changes in Glutamatergic Neurotransmission

Publication Title

Cerebral Cortex

Publication Date


Document Type





primates, brain evolution, glutamatergic neurotransmission, prefrontal cortex, synapse


Animal Sciences | Anthropology


Increased relative brain size characterizes the evolution of primates, suggesting that enhanced cognition plays an important part in the behavioral adaptations of this mammalian order. In addition to changes in brain anatomy, cognition can also be regulated by molecular changes that alter synaptic function, but little is known about modifications of synapses in primate brain evolution. The aim of the current study was to investigate the expression patterns and evolution of 20 synaptic genes from the prefrontal cortex of 12 primate species. The genes investigated included glutamate receptors, scaffolding proteins, synaptic vesicle components, as well as factors involved in synaptic vesicle release and structural components of the nervous system. Our analyses revealed that there have been significant changes during primate brain evolution in the components of the glutamatergic signaling pathway in terms of gene expression, protein expression, and promoter sequence changes. These results could entail functional modifications in the regulation of specific genes related to processes underlying learning and memory.


Oxford University Press