In DepthHUMAN EVOLUTION

New copies of old gene drove brain expansion

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Science  01 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6392, pp. 951
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6392.951

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Summary

Three nearly identical genes could help explain why the ancestral human brain tripled in size over the course of human evolution. The genes, descendants of an ancient developmental gene that multiplied and changed over time, could also explain how brain development sometimes goes wrong, leading to neurological disorders. Three research groups have shown that these genes boost the number of potential nerve cells in brain tissue, and one team even pinned down the protein interactions likely responsible. They are the NOTCH2NL genes, and they affect NOTCH signaling, which controls the timing of development. They add to a growing list of DNA implicated in human brain expansion.