Researchers are compiling a new atlas of the mouse brain. The Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas or GENSAT, reported in Nature (Vol. 425, No. 6961, 30 October 2003, pp. 917-925), is based on specific gene expression. It aims to provide a detailed map of the different cell types in the central nervous system, offering new insights for neuroscientists and developmental biologists.
Using information from the mouse genome, Nathaniel Heintz and colleagues have built a library of bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs). Each BAC represents a gene and carries the green marker protein GFP. The team used these BACs to make over 100 different transgenic mice, allowing the researchers to trace where and when specific genes are expressed and to visualize the connections made by cells expressing them.
One gene, Gscl, is normally produced in a brain region that regulates rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, they report. Gscl is missing in people with DiGeorge syndrome, a disorder involving congenital heart defects. The new finding may alert researchers to subtle alterations in REM sleep in DiGeorge patients, they speculate.
GENSAT has already provided data on 150 genes, but it aims to generate detailed expression maps for thousands more. "In the short term, neuroscientists can learn where their favourite gene is expressed and this knowledge might inform their studies into the functional consequences of its loss," says Huda Y. Zoghbi in an accompanying News and Views article.
The Rockefeller University
New York, NY, USA
Tel: +1 212 327 7956
Huda Y. Zoghbi
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston TX, USA
Tel: +1 713 798 6558
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