Nowick, K. and Stubbs, L. Differences in human and chimpanzee gene expression patterns define an evolving network of transcription factors in brain. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 106: 22358-22363, 2009. @Pubmed.
Humans differ from other primates by marked differences in cognitive abilities and a significantly larger brain. These differences correlate with metabolic changes, as evidenced by the relative up-regulation of energy-related genes and metabolites in human brain. While the mechanisms underlying these evolutionary changes have not been elucidated, altered activities of key transcription factors (TFs) could play a pivotal role. To assess this possibility, we analyzed microarray data from five tissues from humans and chimpanzees. We identified 90 TF genes with significantly different expression levels in human and chimpanzee brain among which the rapidly evolving KRAB-zinc finger genes are markedly over-represented. The differentially expressed TFs cluster within a robust regulatory network consisting of two distinct but interlinked modules, one strongly associated with energy metabolism functions, and the other with transcription, vesicular transport, and ubiquitination. Our results suggest that concerted changes in a relatively small number of interacting TFs may coordinate major gene expression differences in human and chimpanzee brain.