Modern human changes in regulatory regions implicated in cortical development

Juan Moriano, Cedric Boeckx
2020 BMC Genomics  
Recent paleogenomic studies have highlighted a very small set of proteins carrying modern human-specific missense changes in comparison to our closest extinct relatives. Despite being frequently alluded to as highly relevant, species-specific differences in regulatory regions remain understudied. Here, we integrate data from paleogenomics, chromatin modification and physical interaction, and single-cell gene expression of neural progenitor cells to identify derived regulatory changes in the
more » ... rn human lineage in comparison to Neanderthals/Denisovans. We report a set of genes whose enhancers and/or promoters harbor modern human single nucleotide changes and are active at early stages of cortical development. We identified 212 genes controlled by regulatory regions harboring modern human changes where Neanderthals/Denisovans carry the ancestral allele. These regulatory regions significantly overlap with putative modern human positively-selected regions and schizophrenia-related genetic loci. Among the 212 genes, we identified a substantial proportion of genes related to transcriptional regulation and, specifically, an enrichment for the SETD1A histone methyltransferase complex, known to regulate WNT signaling for the generation and proliferation of intermediate progenitor cells. This study complements previous research focused on protein-coding changes distinguishing our species from Neanderthals/Denisovans and highlights chromatin regulation as a functional category so far overlooked in modern human evolution studies. We present a set of candidates that will help to illuminate the investigation of modern human-specific ontogenetic trajectories.
doi:10.1186/s12864-020-6706-x pmid:32299352 fatcat:76orlbwboncojl4d2qjrwsizn4