The postsynaptic density (PSD) is a protein dense complex on the postsynaptic membrane of excitatory synapses that is implicated in normal nervous system functions such as synaptic plasticity, and also contains an enrichment of proteins involved in neuropsychiatric disorders. It has recently been reported that the genes encoding PSD proteins evolved more slowly than other genes in the human brain, but the underlying evolutionary advantage for this is not clear. Here, we show that cortical gene expression levels could explain most of this effect, indicating that expression level is a primary contributor to the evolution of these genes in the brain. Furthermore, we identify a positive correlation between the expression of PSD genes and cortical layers, with PSD genes being more highly expressed in deep layers, likely as a result of layer-enriched transcription factors. As the cortical layers of the mammalian brain have distinct functions and anatomical projections, our results indicate that the emergence of the unique six-layered mammalian cortex may have provided differential functional constraints on the evolution of PSD genes. More superficial cortical layers contain PSD genes with less constraint and these layers are primarily involved in intracortical projections, connections that may be particularly important for evolved cognitive functions. Therefore, the differential expression and evolutionary constraint of PSD genes in neocortical laminae may be critical not only for neocortical architecture but the cognitive functions that are dependent on this structure.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)