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1.  Cellular Scaling Rules for the Brains of an Extended Number of Primate Species 
Brain, Behavior and Evolution  2010;76(1):32-44.
What are the rules relating the size of the brain and its structures to the number of cells that compose them and their average sizes? We have shown previously that the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and the remaining brain structures increase in size as a linear function of their numbers of neurons and non-neuronal cells across 6 species of primates. Here we describe that the cellular composition of the same brain structures of 5 other primate species, as well as humans, conform to the scaling rules identified previously, and that the updated power functions for the extended sample are similar to those determined earlier. Accounting for phylogenetic relatedness in the combined dataset does not affect the scaling slopes that apply to the cerebral cortex and cerebellum, but alters the slope for the remaining brain structures to a value that is similar to that observed in rodents, which raises the possibility that the neuronal scaling rules for these structures are shared among rodents and primates. The conformity of the new set of primate species to the previous rules strongly suggests that the cellular scaling rules we have identified apply to primates in general, including humans, and not only to particular subgroups of primate species. In contrast, the allometric rules relating body and brain size are highly sensitive to the particular species sampled, suggesting that brain size is neither determined by body size nor together with it, but is rather only loosely correlated with body size.
PMCID: PMC2980814  PMID: 20926854
Allometry; Brain size; Evolution; Glia, number; Neurons, number; Primates
2.  Cellular scaling rules for the brain of Artiodactyla include a highly folded cortex with few neurons 
Quantitative analysis of the cellular composition of rodent, primate, insectivore, and afrotherian brains has shown that non-neuronal scaling rules are similar across these mammalian orders that diverged about 95 million years ago, and therefore appear to be conserved in evolution, while neuronal scaling rules appear to be free to vary in a clade-specific manner. Here we analyze the cellular scaling rules that apply to the brain of artiodactyls, a group within the order Cetartiodactyla, believed to be a relatively recent radiation from the common Eutherian ancestor. We find that artiodactyls share non-neuronal scaling rules with all groups analyzed previously. Artiodactyls share with afrotherians and rodents, but not with primates, the neuronal scaling rules that apply to the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. The neuronal scaling rules that apply to the remaining brain areas are, however, distinct in artiodactyls. Importantly, we show that the folding index of the cerebral cortex scales with the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex in distinct fashions across artiodactyls, afrotherians, rodents, and primates, such that the artiodactyl cerebral cortex is more convoluted than primate cortices of similar numbers of neurons. Our findings suggest that the scaling rules found to be shared across modern afrotherians, glires, and artiodactyls applied to the common Eutherian ancestor, such as the relationship between the mass of the cerebral cortex as a whole and its number of neurons. In turn, the distribution of neurons along the surface of the cerebral cortex, which is related to its degree of gyrification, appears to be a clade-specific characteristic. If the neuronal scaling rules for artiodactyls extend to all cetartiodactyls, we predict that the large cerebral cortex of cetaceans will still have fewer neurons than the human cerebral cortex.
PMCID: PMC4228855  PMID: 25429261
evolution; cortical expansion; numbers of neurons; gyrification; brain size
3.  Greater addition of neurons to the olfactory bulb than to the cerebral cortex of eulipotyphlans but not rodents, afrotherians or primates 
The olfactory bulb is an evolutionarily old structure that antedates the appearance of a six-layered mammalian cerebral cortex. As such, the neuronal scaling rules that apply to scaling the mass of the olfactory bulb as a function of its number of neurons might be shared across mammalian groups, as we have found to be the case for the ensemble of non-cortical, non-cerebellar brain structures. Alternatively, the neuronal scaling rules that apply to the olfactory bulb might be distinct in those mammals that rely heavily on olfaction. The group previously referred to as Insectivora includes small mammals, some of which are now placed in Afrotheria, a base group in mammalian radiation, and others in Eulipotyphla, a group derived later, at the base of Laurasiatheria. Here we show that the neuronal scaling rules that apply to building the olfactory bulb differ across eulipotyphlans and other mammals such that eulipotyphlans have more neurons concentrated in an olfactory bulb of similar size than afrotherians, glires and primates. Most strikingly, while the cerebral cortex gains neurons at a faster pace than the olfactory bulb in glires, and afrotherians follow this trend, it is the olfactory bulb that gains neurons at a faster pace than the cerebral cortex in eulipotyphlans, which contradicts the common view that the cerebral cortex is the fastest expanding structure in brain evolution. Our findings emphasize the importance of not using brain structure size as a proxy for numbers of neurons across mammalian orders, and are consistent with the notion that different selective pressures have acted upon the olfactory system of eulipotyphlans, glires and primates, with eulipotyphlans relying more on olfaction for their behavior than glires and primates. Surprisingly, however, the neuronal scaling rules for primates predict that the human olfactory bulb has as many neurons as the larger eulipotyphlan olfactory bulbs, which questions the classification of humans as microsmatic.
PMCID: PMC3990053  PMID: 24782719
olfactory bulb; cortical expansion; mosaic evolution; olfaction
4.  Cellular scaling rules for the brain of afrotherians 
Quantitative analysis of the cellular composition of rodent, primate and eulipotyphlan brains has shown that non-neuronal scaling rules are similar across these mammalian orders that diverged about 95 million years ago, and therefore appear to be conserved in evolution, while neuronal scaling rules appear to be free to vary in evolution in a clade-specific manner. Here we analyze the cellular scaling rules that apply to the brain of afrotherians, believed to be the first clade to radiate from the common eutherian ancestor. We find that afrotherians share non-neuronal scaling rules with rodents, primates and eulipotyphlans, as well as the coordinated scaling of numbers of neurons in the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. Afrotherians share with rodents and eulipotyphlans, but not with primates, the scaling of number of neurons in the cortex and in the cerebellum as a function of the number of neurons in the rest of the brain. Afrotheria also share with rodents and eulipotyphlans the neuronal scaling rules that apply to the cerebral cortex. Afrotherians share with rodents, but not with eulipotyphlans nor primates, the neuronal scaling rules that apply to the cerebellum. Importantly, the scaling of the folding index of the cerebral cortex with the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex is not shared by either afrotherians, rodents, or primates. The sharing of some neuronal scaling rules between afrotherians and rodents, and of some additional features with eulipotyphlans and primates, raise the interesting possibility that these shared characteristics applied to the common eutherian ancestor. In turn, the clade-specific characteristics that relate to the distribution of neurons along the surface of the cerebral cortex and to its degree of gyrification suggest that these characteristics compose an evolutionarily plastic suite of features that may have defined and distinguished mammalian groups in evolution.
PMCID: PMC3925844  PMID: 24596544
evolution; glia-neuron ratio; numbers of neurons; cortical expansion; gyrification
5.  Gorilla and Orangutan Brains Conform to the Primate Cellular Scaling Rules: Implications for Human Evolution 
Brain, Behavior and Evolution  2011;77(1):33-44.
Gorillas and orangutans are primates at least as large as humans, but their brains amount to about one third of the size of the human brain. This discrepancy has been used as evidence that the human brain is about 3 times larger than it should be for a primate species of its body size. In contrast to the view that the human brain is special in its size, we have suggested that it is the great apes that might have evolved bodies that are unusually large, on the basis of our recent finding that the cellular composition of the human brain matches that expected for a primate brain of its size, making the human brain a linearly scaled-up primate brain in its number of cells. To investigate whether the brain of great apes also conforms to the primate cellular scaling rules identified previously, we determine the numbers of neuronal and other cells that compose the orangutan and gorilla cerebella, use these numbers to calculate the size of the brain and of the cerebral cortex expected for these species, and show that these match the sizes described in the literature. Our results suggest that the brains of great apes also scale linearly in their numbers of neurons like other primate brains, including humans. The conformity of great apes and humans to the linear cellular scaling rules that apply to other primates that diverged earlier in primate evolution indicates that prehistoric Homo species as well as other hominins must have had brains that conformed to the same scaling rules, irrespective of their body size. We then used those scaling rules and published estimated brain volumes for various hominin species to predict the numbers of neurons that composed their brains. We predict that Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis had brains with approximately 80 billion neurons, within the range of variation found in modern Homo sapiens. We propose that while the cellular scaling rules that apply to the primate brain have remained stable in hominin evolution (since they apply to simians, great apes and modern humans alike), the Colobinae and Pongidae lineages favored marked increases in body size rather than brain size from the common ancestor with the Homo lineage, while the Homo lineage seems to have favored a large brain instead of a large body, possibly due to the metabolic limitations to having both.
PMCID: PMC3064932  PMID: 21228547
Allometry; Brain size; Great apes; Human; Evolution, human; Neurons, number
6.  Cellular Scaling Rules of Insectivore Brains 
Insectivores represent extremes in mammalian body size and brain size, retaining various “primitive” morphological characteristics, and some species of Insectivora are thought to share similarities with small-bodied ancestral eutherians. This raises the possibility that insectivore brains differ from other taxa, including rodents and primates, in cellular scaling properties. Here we examine the cellular scaling rules for insectivore brains and demonstrate that insectivore scaling rules overlap somewhat with those for rodents and primates such that the insectivore cortex shares scaling rules with rodents (increasing faster in size than in numbers of neurons), but the insectivore cerebellum shares scaling rules with primates (increasing isometrically). Brain structures pooled as “remaining areas” appear to scale similarly across all three mammalian orders with respect to numbers of neurons, and the numbers of non-neurons appear to scale similarly across all brain structures for all three orders. Therefore, common scaling rules exist, to different extents, between insectivore, rodent, and primate brain regions, and it is hypothesized that insectivores represent the common aspects of each order. The olfactory bulbs of insectivores, however, offer a noteworthy exception in that neuronal density increases linearly with increasing structure mass. This implies that the average neuronal cell size decreases with increasing olfactory bulb mass in order to accommodate greater neuronal density, and represents the first documentation of a brain structure gaining neurons at a greater rate than mass. This might allow insectivore brains to concentrate more neurons within the olfactory bulbs without a prohibitively large and metabolically costly increase in structure mass.
PMCID: PMC2713736  PMID: 19636383
allometry; brain size; comparative neuroanatomy; glia; neurons; evolution; olfactory bulb
7.  The Human Brain in Numbers: A Linearly Scaled-up Primate Brain  
The human brain has often been viewed as outstanding among mammalian brains: the most cognitively able, the largest-than-expected from body size, endowed with an overdeveloped cerebral cortex that represents over 80% of brain mass, and purportedly containing 100 billion neurons and 10× more glial cells. Such uniqueness was seemingly necessary to justify the superior cognitive abilities of humans over larger-brained mammals such as elephants and whales. However, our recent studies using a novel method to determine the cellular composition of the brain of humans and other primates as well as of rodents and insectivores show that, since different cellular scaling rules apply to the brains within these orders, brain size can no longer be considered a proxy for the number of neurons in the brain. These studies also showed that the human brain is not exceptional in its cellular composition, as it was found to contain as many neuronal and non-neuronal cells as would be expected of a primate brain of its size. Additionally, the so-called overdeveloped human cerebral cortex holds only 19% of all brain neurons, a fraction that is similar to that found in other mammals. In what regards absolute numbers of neurons, however, the human brain does have two advantages compared to other mammalian brains: compared to rodents, and probably to whales and elephants as well, it is built according to the very economical, space-saving scaling rules that apply to other primates; and, among economically built primate brains, it is the largest, hence containing the most neurons. These findings argue in favor of a view of cognitive abilities that is centered on absolute numbers of neurons, rather than on body size or encephalization, and call for a re-examination of several concepts related to the exceptionality of the human brain.
PMCID: PMC2776484  PMID: 19915731
brain scaling; number of neurons; human; encephalization
8.  Brain scaling in mammalian evolution as a consequence of concerted and mosaic changes in numbers of neurons and average neuronal cell size 
Enough species have now been subject to systematic quantitative analysis of the relationship between the morphology and cellular composition of their brain that patterns begin to emerge and shed light on the evolutionary path that led to mammalian brain diversity. Based on an analysis of the shared and clade-specific characteristics of 41 modern mammalian species in 6 clades, and in light of the phylogenetic relationships among them, here we propose that ancestral mammal brains were composed and scaled in their cellular composition like modern afrotherian and glire brains: with an addition of neurons that is accompanied by a decrease in neuronal density and very little modification in glial cell density, implying a significant increase in average neuronal cell size in larger brains, and the allocation of approximately 2 neurons in the cerebral cortex and 8 neurons in the cerebellum for every neuron allocated to the rest of brain. We also propose that in some clades the scaling of different brain structures has diverged away from the common ancestral layout through clade-specific (or clade-defining) changes in how average neuronal cell mass relates to numbers of neurons in each structure, and how numbers of neurons are differentially allocated to each structure relative to the number of neurons in the rest of brain. Thus, the evolutionary expansion of mammalian brains has involved both concerted and mosaic patterns of scaling across structures. This is, to our knowledge, the first mechanistic model that explains the generation of brains large and small in mammalian evolution, and it opens up new horizons for seeking the cellular pathways and genes involved in brain evolution.
PMCID: PMC4127475  PMID: 25157220
numbers of neurons; brain size; cortical expansion; evolution; cell size
9.  Different scaling of white matter volume, cortical connectivity, and gyrification across rodent and primate brains 
Expansion of the cortical gray matter in evolution has been accompanied by an even faster expansion of the subcortical white matter volume and by folding of the gray matter surface, events traditionally considered to occur homogeneously across mammalian species. Here we investigate how white matter expansion and cortical folding scale across species of rodents and primates as the gray matter gains neurons. We find very different scaling rules of white matter expansion across the two orders, favoring volume conservation and smaller propagation times in primates. For a similar number of cortical neurons, primates have a smaller connectivity fraction and less white matter volume than rodents; moreover, as the cortex gains neurons, there is a much faster increase in white matter volume and in its ratio to gray matter volume in rodents than in primates. Order-specific scaling of the white matter can be attributed to different scaling of average fiber caliber and neuronal connectivity in rodents and primates. Finally, cortical folding increases as different functions of the number of cortical neurons in rodents and primates, scaling faster in the latter than in the former. While the neuronal rules that govern gray and white matter scaling are different across rodents and primates, we find that they can be explained by the same unifying model, with order-specific exponents. The different scaling of the white matter has implications for the scaling of propagation time and computational capacity in evolution, and calls for a reappraisal of developmental models of cortical expansion in evolution.
PMCID: PMC3620553  PMID: 23576961
white matter; number of neurons; allometry; brain size; cortical expansion; gyrification
10.  Characterization of the differentially methylated region of the Impact gene that exhibits Glires-specific imprinting 
Genome Biology  2008;9(11):R160.
Comparative genomic analysis of the Impact locus, which is imprinted in Glires but not in other mammals, reveals features required for genomic imprinting.
Imprinted genes are exclusively expressed from one of the two parental alleles in a parent-of-origin-specific manner. In mammals, nearly 100 genes are documented to be imprinted. To understand the mechanism behind this gene regulation and to identify novel imprinted genes, common features of DNA sequences have been analyzed; however, the general features required for genomic imprinting have not yet been identified, possibly due to variability in underlying molecular mechanisms from locus to locus.
We performed a thorough comparative genomic analysis of a single locus, Impact, which is imprinted only in Glires (rodents and lagomorphs). The fact that Glires and primates diverged from each other as recent as 70 million years ago makes comparisons between imprinted and non-imprinted orthologues relatively reliable. In species from the Glires clade, Impact bears a differentially methylated region, whereby the maternal allele is hypermethylated. Analysis of this region demonstrated that imprinting was not associated with the presence of direct tandem repeats nor with CpG dinucleotide density. In contrast, a CpG periodicity of 8 bp was observed in this region in species of the Glires clade compared to those of carnivores, artiodactyls, and primates.
We show that tandem repeats are dispensable, establishment of the differentially methylated region does not rely on G+C content and CpG density, and the CpG periodicity of 8 bp is meaningful to the imprinting. This interval has recently been reported to be optimal for de novo methylation by the Dnmt3a-Dnmt3L complex, suggesting its importance in the establishment of imprinting in Impact and other genes.
PMCID: PMC2614492  PMID: 19014519
11.  Scaling of Brain Metabolism with a Fixed Energy Budget per Neuron: Implications for Neuronal Activity, Plasticity and Evolution 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17514.
It is usually considered that larger brains have larger neurons, which consume more energy individually, and are therefore accompanied by a larger number of glial cells per neuron. These notions, however, have never been tested. Based on glucose and oxygen metabolic rates in awake animals and their recently determined numbers of neurons, here I show that, contrary to the expected, the estimated glucose use per neuron is remarkably constant, varying only by 40% across the six species of rodents and primates (including humans). The estimated average glucose use per neuron does not correlate with neuronal density in any structure. This suggests that the energy budget of the whole brain per neuron is fixed across species and brain sizes, such that total glucose use by the brain as a whole, by the cerebral cortex and also by the cerebellum alone are linear functions of the number of neurons in the structures across the species (although the average glucose consumption per neuron is at least 10× higher in the cerebral cortex than in the cerebellum). These results indicate that the apparently remarkable use in humans of 20% of the whole body energy budget by a brain that represents only 2% of body mass is explained simply by its large number of neurons. Because synaptic activity is considered the major determinant of metabolic cost, a conserved energy budget per neuron has several profound implications for synaptic homeostasis and the regulation of firing rates, synaptic plasticity, brain imaging, pathologies, and for brain scaling in evolution.
PMCID: PMC3046985  PMID: 21390261
12.  All brains are made of this: a fundamental building block of brain matter with matching neuronal and glial masses 
How does the size of the glial and neuronal cells that compose brain tissue vary across brain structures and species? Our previous studies indicate that average neuronal size is highly variable, while average glial cell size is more constant. Measuring whole cell sizes in vivo, however, is a daunting task. Here we use chi-square minimization of the relationship between measured neuronal and glial cell densities in the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and rest of brain in 27 mammalian species to model neuronal and glial cell mass, as well as the neuronal mass fraction of the tissue (the fraction of tissue mass composed by neurons). Our model shows that while average neuronal cell mass varies by over 500-fold across brain structures and species, average glial cell mass varies only 1.4-fold. Neuronal mass fraction varies typically between 0.6 and 0.8 in all structures. Remarkably, we show that two fundamental, universal relationships apply across all brain structures and species: (1) the glia/neuron ratio varies with the total neuronal mass in the tissue (which in turn depends on variations in average neuronal cell mass), and (2) the neuronal mass per glial cell, and with it the neuronal mass fraction and neuron/glia mass ratio, varies with average glial cell mass in the tissue. We propose that there is a fundamental building block of brain tissue: the glial mass that accompanies a unit of neuronal mass. We argue that the scaling of this glial mass is a consequence of a universal mechanism whereby numbers of glial cells are added to the neuronal parenchyma during development, irrespective of whether the neurons composing it are large or small, but depending on the average mass of the glial cells being added. We also show how evolutionary variations in neuronal cell mass, glial cell mass and number of neurons suffice to determine the most basic characteristics of brain structures, such as mass, glia/neuron ratio, neuron/glia mass ratio, and cell densities.
PMCID: PMC4228857  PMID: 25429260
allometry; glia/neuron ratio; number of neurons; number of glial cells; cell size; brain size
13.  The Evolution of Brains from Early Mammals to Humans 
The large size and complex organization of the human brain makes it unique among primate brains. In particular, the neocortex constitutes about 80% of the brain, and this cortex is subdivided into a large number of functionally specialized regions, the cortical areas. Such a brain mediates accomplishments and abilities unmatched by any other species. How did such a brain evolve? Answers come from comparative studies of the brains of present-day mammals and other vertebrates in conjunction with information about brain sizes and shapes from the fossil record, studies of brain development, and principles derived from studies of scaling and optimal design. Early mammals were small, with small brains, an emphasis on olfaction, and little neocortex. Neocortex was transformed from the single layer of output pyramidal neurons of the dorsal cortex of earlier ancestors to the six layers of all present-day mammals. This small cap of neocortex was divided into 20–25 cortical areas, including primary and some of the secondary sensory areas that characterize neocortex in nearly all mammals today. Early placental mammals had a corpus callosum connecting the neocortex of the two hemispheres, a primary motor area, M1, and perhaps one or more premotor areas. One line of evolution, Euarchontoglires, led to present-day primates, tree shrews, flying lemurs, rodents and rabbits. Early primates evolved from small-brained, nocturnal, insect-eating mammals with an expanded region of temporal visual cortex. These early nocturnal primates were adapted to the fine branch niche of the tropical rainforest by having an even more expanded visual system that mediated visually guided reaching and grasping of insects, small vertebrates, and fruits. Neocortex was greatly expanded, and included an array of cortical areas that characterize neocortex of all living primates. Specializations of the visual system included new visual areas that contributed to a dorsal stream of visuomotor processing in a greatly enlarged region of posterior parietal cortex and an expanded motor system and the addition of a ventral premotor area. Higher visual areas in a large temporal lobe facilitated object recognition, and frontal cortex, included granular prefrontal cortex. Auditory cortex included the primary and secondary auditory areas that characterize prosimian and anthropoid primates today. As anthropoids emerged as diurnal primates, the visual system specialized for detailed foveal vision. Other adaptations included an expansion of prefrontal cortex and insular cortex. The human and chimpanzee-bonobo lineages diverged some 6–8 million years ago with brains that were about one-third the size of modern humans. Over the last two million years, the brains of our more recent ancestors increased greatly in size, especially in the prefrontal, posterior parietal, lateral temporal, and insular regions. Specialization of the two cerebral hemispheres for related, but different functions became pronounced, and language and other impressive cognitive abilities emerged.
PMCID: PMC3606080  PMID: 23529256
14.  Expression of NADPH Oxidase (NOX) 5 in Rabbit Corneal Stromal Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34440.
To determine whether NOX 5 is expressed in rabbit corneal stromal cells (RCSC). NADPH oxidases (NOXes) are enzymes that preferentially use NADPH as a substrate and generate superoxide. Several isoforms of NOXes function as multi-protein complexes while NOX5 and DUOXs do not require the accessory proteins for their activity and possess calcium binding EF hands.
Human NOX5 primers were used to amplify the rabbit NOX5 by RT-PCR. Amplified product was sequenced to confirm its identity. The protein encoded by the NOX5 was identified by western blot analysis. NOX5 siRNA was used to reduce transcript, protein, and calcium stimulated activity. In silico analyses were performed to establish the putative structure, functions, and evolution of rabbit NOX5.
NOX activity was measured in RCSC with NADPH rather than NADH as a substrate. RT-PCR with NOX5 primers amplified 288 bp product using RCSC cDNA, which, when sequenced, confirmed its identity to human NOX5 mRNA. This sequence was used to predict the rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) NOX5 gene. NOX5 siRNA reduced amounts of NOX5 mRNA in RCSC and reduced ionomycin stimulated superoxide production. A protein of about 65 to 70 kDa encoded by the NOX5 was detected by western blot analysis. In silico analysis predicted a putative rabbit NOX5 protein containing 801 amino acids. Motif searches predicted the presence of at least 3 putative EF-hands in N-terminus and a NOX domain in C terminal region.
The data document that the NOX5 gene was expressed in cells of lagomorphs unlike rodents, making the rabbit an interesting model to study NOX5 functions. The activity of the rabbit NOX5 was calcium stimulated, a trait of NOX5 in general. NOX5 may also prove to be a useful genetic marker for studying the taxonomic position of lagomorphs and the Glires classification.
PMCID: PMC3325249  PMID: 22511941
15.  Evolutionary History of Lagomorphs in Response to Global Environmental Change 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e59668.
Although species within Lagomorpha are derived from a common ancestor, the distribution range and body size of its two extant groups, ochotonids and leporids, are quite differentiated. It is unclear what has driven their disparate evolutionary history. In this study, we compile and update all fossil records of Lagomorpha for the first time, to trace the evolutionary processes and infer their evolutionary history using mitochondrial genes, body length and distribution of extant species. We also compare the forage selection of extant species, which offers an insight into their future prospects. The earliest lagomorphs originated in Asia and later diversified in different continents. Within ochotonids, more than 20 genera occupied the period from the early Miocene to middle Miocene, whereas most of them became extinct during the transition from the Miocene to Pliocene. The peak diversity of the leporids occurred during the Miocene to Pliocene transition, while their diversity dramatically decreased in the late Quaternary. Mantel tests identified a positive correlation between body length and phylogenetic distance of lagomorphs. The body length of extant ochotonids shows a normal distribution, while the body length of extant leporids displays a non-normal pattern. We also find that the forage selection of extant pikas features a strong preference for C3 plants, while for the diet of leporids, more than 16% of plant species are identified as C4 (31% species are from Poaceae). The ability of several leporid species to consume C4 plants is likely to result in their size increase and range expansion, most notably in Lepus. Expansion of C4 plants in the late Miocene, the so-called ‘nature’s green revolution’, induced by global environmental change, is suggested to be one of the major ‘ecological opportunities’, which probably drove large-scale extinction and range contraction of ochotonids, but inversely promoted diversification and range expansion of leporids.
PMCID: PMC3616043  PMID: 23573205
16.  Local and Remote Growth Factor Effects After Primate Spinal Cord Injury 
Primate models of spinal cord injury differ from rodent models in several respects, including the relative size and functional neuroanatomy of spinal projections. Fundamental differences in scale raise the possibility that retrograde injury signals, and treatments applied at the level of the spinal cord that exhibit efficacy in rodents, may fail to influence neurons at the far greater distances of primate systems. Thus, we examined both local and remote neuronal responses to neurotrophic factor-secreting cell grafts placed within sites of right C7 hemisection lesions in the rhesus macaque. Six months after gene delivery of BDNF and NT-3 into C7 lesion sites, we found both local effects of growth factors on axonal growth, and remote effects of growth factors reflected in significant reductions in axotomy-induced atrophy of large pyramidal neurons within the primary motor cortex. Further examination in a rodent model suggested that BDNF, rather than NT-3, mediated remote protection of corticospinal neurons in the brain. Thus, injured neural systems retain the ability to respond to growth signals over the extended distances of the primate CNS, promoting local axonal growth and preventing lesion-induced neuronal degeneration at a distance. Remote cortical effects of spinally-administered growth factors could “prime” the neuron to respond to experimental therapies that promote axonal plasticity or regeneration.
PMCID: PMC2927098  PMID: 20660255
neurotrophic factors; spinal cord injury; non-human primate; axonal growth; motor cortex; neuroprotection
17.  Spatio-temporal extension in site of origin for cortical calretinin neurons in primates 
The vast majority of cortical GABAergic neurons can be defined by parvalbumin, somatostatin or calretinin expression. In most mammalians, parvalbumin and somatostatin interneurons have constant proportions, each representing 5–7% of the total neuron number. In contrast, there is a threefold increase in the proportion of calretinin interneurons, which do not exceed 4% in rodents and reach 12% in higher order areas of primate cerebral cortex. In rodents, almost all parvalbumin and somatostatin interneurons originate from the medial part of the subpallial proliferative structure, the ganglionic eminence (GE), while almost all calretinin interneurons originate from its caudal part. The spatial pattern of cortical GABAergic neurons origin from the GE is preserved in the monkey and human brain. However, it could be expected that the evolution is changing developmental rules to enable considerable expansion of calretinin interneuron population. During the early fetal period in primates, cortical GABAergic neurons are almost entirely generated in the subpallium, as in rodents. Already at that time, the primate caudal ganglionic eminence (CGE) shows a relative increase in size and production of calretinin interneurons. During the second trimester of gestation, that is the main neurogenetic stage in primates without clear correlates found in rodents, the pallial production of cortical GABAergic neurons together with the extended persistence of the GE is observed. We propose that the CGE could be the main source of calretinin interneurons for the posterior and lateral cortical regions, but not for the frontal cortex. The associative granular frontal cortex represents around one third of the cortical surface and contains almost half of cortical calretinin interneurons. The majority of calretinin interneurons destined for the frontal cortex could be generated in the pallium, especially in the newly evolved outer subventricular zone that becomes the main pool of cortical progenitors.
PMCID: PMC4072090  PMID: 25018702
interneurons; calretinin; ganglionic eminence; ventricular zone; GABA; epilepsy
18.  The hippocampus of the eastern rock sengi: cytoarchitecture, markers of neuronal function, principal cell numbers, and adult neurogenesis 
The brains of sengis (elephant shrews, order Macroscelidae) have long been known to contain a hippocampus that in terms of allometric progression indices is larger than that of most primates and equal in size to that of humans. In this report, we provide descriptions of hippocampal cytoarchitecture in the eastern rock sengi (Elephantulus myurus), of the distributions of hippocampal calretinin, calbindin, parvalbumin, and somatostatin, of principal neuron numbers, and of cell numbers related to proliferation and neuronal differentiation in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Sengi hippocampal cytoarchitecture is an amalgamation of characters that are found in CA1 of, e.g., guinea pig and rabbits and in CA3 and dentate gyrus of primates. Correspondence analysis of total cell numbers and quantitative relations between principal cell populations relate this sengi to macaque monkeys and domestic pigs, and distinguish the sengi from distinct patterns of relations found in humans, dogs, and murine rodents. Calretinin and calbindin are present in some cell populations that also express these proteins in other species, e.g., interneurons at the stratum oriens/alveus border or temporal hilar mossy cells, but neurons expressing these markers are often scarce or absent in other layers. The distributions of parvalbumin and somatostatin resemble those in other species. Normalized numbers of PCNA+ proliferating cells and doublecortin-positive (DCX+) differentiating cells of neuronal lineage fall within the overall ranges of murid rodents, but differed from three murid species captured in the same habitat in that fewer DCX+ cells relative to PCNA+ were observed. The large and well-differentiated sengi hippocampus is not accompanied by correspondingly sized cortical and subcortical limbic areas that are the main hippocampal sources of afferents and targets of efferents. This points to intrinsic hippocampal information processing as the selective advantage of the large sengi hippocampus.
PMCID: PMC3810719  PMID: 24194702
Macroscelididae; comparative neuroanatomy; calcium-binding proteins; somatostatin; correspondence analysis; dentate gyrus; proliferation; neuronal differentiation
19.  Mammalian Sleep Dynamics: How Diverse Features Arise from a Common Physiological Framework 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(6):e1000826.
Mammalian sleep varies widely, ranging from frequent napping in rodents to consolidated blocks in primates and unihemispheric sleep in cetaceans. In humans, rats, mice and cats, sleep patterns are orchestrated by homeostatic and circadian drives to the sleep–wake switch, but it is not known whether this system is ubiquitous among mammals. Here, changes of just two parameters in a recent quantitative model of this switch are shown to reproduce typical sleep patterns for 17 species across 7 orders. Furthermore, the parameter variations are found to be consistent with the assumptions that homeostatic production and clearance scale as brain volume and surface area, respectively. Modeling an additional inhibitory connection between sleep-active neuronal populations on opposite sides of the brain generates unihemispheric sleep, providing a testable hypothetical mechanism for this poorly understood phenomenon. Neuromodulation of this connection alone is shown to account for the ability of fur seals to transition between bihemispheric sleep on land and unihemispheric sleep in water. Determining what aspects of mammalian sleep patterns can be explained within a single framework, and are thus universal, is essential to understanding the evolution and function of mammalian sleep. This is the first demonstration of a single model reproducing sleep patterns for multiple different species. These wide-ranging findings suggest that the core physiological mechanisms controlling sleep are common to many mammalian orders, with slight evolutionary modifications accounting for interspecies differences.
Author Summary
The field of sleep physiology has made huge strides in recent years, uncovering the neurological structures which are critical to sleep regulation. However, given the small number of species studied in such detail in the laboratory, it remains to be seen how universal these mechanisms are across the whole mammalian order. Mammalian sleep is extremely diverse, and the unihemispheric sleep of dolphins is nothing like the rapidly cycling sleep of rodents, or the single daily block of humans. Here, we use a mathematical model to demonstrate that the established sleep physiology can indeed account for the sleep of a wide range of mammals. Furthermore, the model gives insight into why the sleep patterns of different species are so distinct: smaller animals burn energy more rapidly, resulting in more rapid sleep–wake cycling. We also show that mammals that sleep unihemispherically may have a single additional neuronal pathway which prevents sleep-promoting neurons on opposite sides of the hypothalamus from activating simultaneously. These findings suggest that the basic physiology controlling sleep evolved before mammals, and illustrate the functional flexibility of this simple system.
PMCID: PMC2891699  PMID: 20585613
20.  Phylogenetic analyses of complete mitochondrial genome sequences suggest a basal divergence of the enigmatic rodent Anomalurus 
Phylogenetic relationships between Lagomorpha, Rodentia and Primates and their allies (Euarchontoglires) have long been debated. While it is now generally agreed that Rodentia constitutes a monophyletic sister-group of Lagomorpha and that this clade (Glires) is sister to Primates and Dermoptera, higher-level relationships within Rodentia remain contentious.
We have sequenced and performed extensive evolutionary analyses on the mitochondrial genome of the scaly-tailed flying squirrel Anomalurus sp., an enigmatic rodent whose phylogenetic affinities have been obscure and extensively debated. Our phylogenetic analyses of the coding regions of available complete mitochondrial genome sequences from Euarchontoglires suggest that Anomalurus is a sister taxon to the Hystricognathi, and that this clade represents the most basal divergence among sampled Rodentia. Bayesian dating methods incorporating a relaxed molecular clock provide divergence-time estimates which are consistently in agreement with the fossil record and which indicate a rapid radiation within Glires around 60 million years ago.
Taken together, the data presented provide a working hypothesis as to the phylogenetic placement of Anomalurus, underline the utility of mitochondrial sequences in the resolution of even relatively deep divergences and go some way to explaining the difficulty of conclusively resolving higher-level relationships within Glires with available data and methodologies.
PMCID: PMC1802082  PMID: 17288612
21.  Clonal Relationships Impact Neuronal Tuning within a Phylogenetically Ancient Vertebrate Brain Structure 
Current Biology  2014;24(16):1929-1933.
Understanding how neurons acquire specific response properties is a major goal in neuroscience. Recent studies in mouse neocortex have shown that “sister neurons” derived from the same cortical progenitor cell have a greater probability of forming synaptic connections with one another [1, 2] and are biased to respond to similar sensory stimuli [3, 4]. However, it is unknown whether such lineage-based rules contribute to functional circuit organization across different species and brain regions [5]. To address this question, we examined the influence of lineage on the response properties of neurons within the optic tectum, a visual brain area found in all vertebrates [6]. Tectal neurons possess well-defined spatial receptive fields (RFs) whose center positions are retinotopically organized [7]. If lineage relationships do not influence the functional properties of tectal neurons, one prediction is that the RF positions of sister neurons should be no more (or less) similar to one another than those of neighboring control neurons. To test this prediction, we developed a protocol to unambiguously identify the daughter neurons derived from single tectal progenitor cells in Xenopus laevis tadpoles. We combined this approach with in vivo two-photon calcium imaging in order to characterize the RF properties of tectal neurons. Our data reveal that the RF centers of sister neurons are significantly more similar than would be expected by chance. Ontogenetic relationships therefore influence the fine-scale topography of the retinotectal map, indicating that lineage relationships may represent a general and evolutionarily conserved principle that contributes to the organization of neural circuits.
•We perform in vivo fate mapping of single progenitors in Xenopus laevis optic tectum•Two-photon calcium imaging reveals similar receptive fields in sister tectal neurons•Clonal relationships influence the fine-scale topography of the retinotectal map•This supports a conserved influence of lineage on neuronal response properties
By labeling single neuronal clones in the Xenopus optic tectum and mapping visual response properties using calcium imaging, Muldal et al. show that sister neurons have more similar receptive field positions than nonsisters. This provides the first evidence that clonal relationships influence neuronal function in a noncortical brain structure.
PMCID: PMC4151134  PMID: 25127219
22.  VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 mRNA expression in the primate auditory pathway 
Hearing research  2010;274(1-2):129-141.
The vesicular glutamate transporters (VGLUTs) regulate storage and release of glutamate in the brain. In adult animals, the VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 isoforms are widely expressed and differentially distributed, suggesting that neural circuits exhibit distinct modes of glutamate regulation. Studies in rodents suggest that VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 mRNA expression patterns are partly complementary, with VGLUT1 expressed at higher levels in cortex and VGLUT2 prominent subcortically, but with overlapping distributions in some nuclei. In primates, VGLUT gene expression has not been previously studied in any part of the brain. The purposes of the present study were to document the regional expression of VGLUT1 and VGLUT2 mRNA in the auditory pathway through A1 in cortex, and to determine whether their distributions are comparable to rodents. In situ hybridization with antisense riboprobes revealed that VGLUT2 was strongly expressed by neurons in the cerebellum and most major auditory nuclei, including the dorsal and ventral cochlear nuclei, medial and lateral superior olivary nuclei, central nucleus of the inferior colliculus, sagulum, and all divisions of the medial geniculate. VGLUT1 was densely expressed in the hippocampus and ventral cochlear nuclei, and at reduced levels in other auditory nuclei. In auditory cortex, neurons expressing VGLUT1 were widely distributed in layers II – VI of the core, belt and parabelt regions. VGLUT2 was most strongly expressed by neurons in layers IIIb and IV, weakly by neurons in layers II – IIIa, and at very low levels in layers V – VI. The findings indicate that VGLUT2 is strongly expressed by neurons at all levels of the subcortical auditory pathway, and by neurons in the middle layers of cortex, whereas VGLUT1 is strongly expressed by most if not all glutamatergic neurons in auditory cortex and at variable levels among auditory subcortical nuclei. These patterns imply that VGLUT2 is the main vesicular glutamate transporter in subcortical and thalamocortical (TC) circuits, whereas VGLUT1 is dominant in cortico-cortical (CC) and cortico-thalamic (CT) systems of projections. The results also suggest that VGLUT mRNA expression patterns in primates are similar to rodents, and establishes a baseline for detailed studies of these transporters in selected circuits of the auditory system.
PMCID: PMC3073021  PMID: 21111036
23.  Study of Sylvilagus rabbit TRIM5α species-specific domain: how ancient endoviruses could have shaped the antiviral repertoire in Lagomorpha 
Since the first report of the antiretroviral restriction factor TRIM5α in primates, several orthologs in other mammals have been described. Recent studies suggest that leporid retroviruses like RELIK, the first reported endogenous lentivirus ever, may have imposed positive selection in TRIM5α orthologs of the European rabbit and European brown hare. Considering that RELIK must already have been present in a common ancestor of the leporid genera Lepus, Sylvilagus and Oryctolagus, we extended the study of evolutionary patterns of TRIM5α to other members of the Leporidae family, particularly to the genus Sylvilagus. Therefore, we obtained the TRIM5α nucleotide sequences of additional subspecies and species of the three leporid genera. We also compared lagomorph TRIM5α deduced protein sequences and established TRIM5α gene and TRIM5α protein phylogenies.
The deduced protein sequence of Iberian hare TRIM5α was 89% identical to European rabbit TRIM5α, although high divergence was observed at the PRYSPRY v1 region between rabbit and the identified alleles from this hare species (allele 1: 50% divergence; allele 2: 53% divergence). A high identity was expected between the Sylvilagus and Oryctolagus TRIM5α proteins and, in fact, the Sylvilagus TRIM5α was 91% identical to the Oryctolagus protein. Nevertheless, the PRYSPRY v1 region was only 50% similar between these genera. Selection analysis of Lagomorpha TRIM5α proteins identified 25 positively-selected codons, 11 of which are located in the PRYSPRY v1 region, responsible for species specific differences in viral capsid recognition.
By extending Lagomorpha TRIM5α studies to an additional genus known to bear RELIK, we verified that the divergent species-specific pattern observed between the Oryctolagus and Lepus PRYSPRY-domains is also present in Sylvilagus TRIM5α. This work is one of the first known studies that compare the evolution of the antiretroviral restriction factor TRIM5α in different mammalian groups, Lagomorpha and Primates.
PMCID: PMC3208668  PMID: 21982459
24.  Coordinated Scaling of Cortical and Cerebellar Numbers of Neurons 
While larger brains possess concertedly larger cerebral cortices and cerebella, the relative size of the cerebral cortex increases with brain size, but relative cerebellar size does not. In the absence of data on numbers of neurons in these structures, this discrepancy has been used to dispute the hypothesis that the cerebral cortex and cerebellum function and have evolved in concert and to support a trend towards neocorticalization in evolution. However, the rationale for interpreting changes in absolute and relative size of the cerebral cortex and cerebellum relies on the assumption that they reflect absolute and relative numbers of neurons in these structures across all species – an assumption that our recent studies have shown to be flawed. Here I show for the first time that the numbers of neurons in the cerebral cortex and cerebellum are directly correlated across 19 mammalian species of four different orders, including humans, and increase concertedly in a similar fashion both within and across the orders Eulipotyphla (Insectivora), Rodentia, Scandentia and Primata, such that on average a ratio of 3.6 neurons in the cerebellum to every neuron in the cerebral cortex is maintained across species. This coordinated scaling of cortical and cerebellar numbers of neurons provides direct evidence in favor of concerted function, scaling and evolution of these brain structures, and suggests that the common notion that equates cognitive advancement with neocortical expansion should be revisited to consider in its stead the coordinated scaling of neocortex and cerebellum as a functional ensemble.
PMCID: PMC2839851  PMID: 20300467
brain size; brain scaling; mosaic evolution; numbers of neurons; cerebral cortex; cerebellum
25.  Sexual size dimorphism in ground squirrels (Rodentia: Sciuridae: Marmotini) does not correlate with body size and sociality 
Frontiers in Zoology  2013;10:27.
Sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is a widespread phenomenon in animals including mammals. It has been demonstrated that across species, the direction and magnitude of sexual dimorphism in body size often corresponds to social systems. Moreover, many animal lineages conform to “Rensch’s rule”, which states that male-biased SSD increases with body size. We tested whether considerable differences in sociality and large variation in body size were connected with the evolution of SSD in the structural body size of ground squirrels, an otherwise ecologically relatively homogenous group of terrestrial rodents.
We found the general trend of male-biased SSD in ground squirrels, however, male size increases nearly perfectly isometrically with female size among species and sociality does not explain departures from this relationship. Species with different sociality grades significantly differ in body size, with the most social species tending to be the largest.
We suggest that lack of conformity with Rensch´s rule in ground squirrels may be attributed to their low variation in SSD, and briefly discuss three potential causes of small magnitude of SSD in the structural size in rodents: low selection on SSD in structural dimensions, ontogenetic and genetic constraints and the existence of ecological/selection factors preventing the evolution of extensive SSD.
PMCID: PMC3663772  PMID: 23672689
Allometry; Constraints; Cynomys; Marmota; Phylogenetic comparative study; Social system; Spermophilus

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