Architect genes of the brain: A look at brain evolution through genoarchitecture

Jose Luis Ferran


The brain of modern humans is the result of the evolution of a building plan (Bauplan) that began its design 500 hundred millions years ago. The process began in basal chordates (sea animals that were living immersed in the sand) and gave rise to the first building plan of the central nervous system; this was progressively modified and shared by all vertebrates. Behind the story are gene networks, key actors in the process to give identity to the different brain regions. This evolutionary scenario provides the basis for studies that seek to understand what is «conserved» and what is «new» between different vertebrates, as well as the underlying mechanisms involved in this process. This article explores the role of genoarchitectonic studies in this human scientific endeavor.


brain evolution; gene expression patterns; brain regionalization; gene networks

Full Text: PDF



Davidson, E. H. (2006). The regulatory genome. Burlington, MA: Academic Press.

Ferran, J. L., Sánchez-Arrones, L., Sandoval, J. E., & Puelles, L. (2007). A model of early molecular regionalization in the chicken embryonic pretectum. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 505(4), 379–403. doi: 10.1002/cne.21493

Ferran, J. L., Sánchez-Arrones, L., Bardet, S. M., Sandoval, J. E., Martínez-de-la-Torre, M., & Puelles, L. (2008). Early pretectal gene expression pattern shows a conserved anteroposterior tripartition in mouse and chicken. Brain Research Bulletin, 75(2–4), 295–298.

Ferran, J. L., de Oliveira, E. D., Merchan, P., Sandoval, J. E., Sánchez-Arrones, L., Martínez-de-la-Torre, M., & Puelles, L. (2009). Genoarchitectonic profile of developing nuclear groups in the chicken pretectum. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 517(4), 405–451. doi: 10.1002/cne.22115

Ferran, J. L., Ayad, A., Merchán, P., Morales-Delgado, N., Sánchez-Arrones, L., Alonso, A., … Puelles, J. (2015). Exploring brain genoarchitecture by single and double chromogenic in situ hybridization (ISH) and immunohistochemistry (IHC) in wholemount embryos. In G. Hauptmann (Ed.), In situ hybridization methods (pp. 61–82). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-2303-8_4

Merchán, P., Bardet, S. M., Puelles, L., & Ferran, J. L. (2011). Comparison of pretectal genoarchitectonic pattern between quail and chicken embryos. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 5, 23. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2011.00023

Morona, R., Ferran, J. L., Puelles, L., & González, A. (2011). Embryonic genoarchitecture of the pretectum in Xenopus laevis: A conserved pattern in tetrapods. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 519(6), 1024–1050. doi: 10.1002/cne.22548

Nieuwenhuys, R., Voogd, J., & Van Huijzen, C. (Eds.). (2008). The human central nervous system. Berlin: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-34686-9

Ohno, S. (1970). Evolution by gene duplication. London: Allen and Unwin. Puelles, L., & Ferran, J. L. (2012). Concept of neural genoarchitecture and its genomic fundament. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 6, 47. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2012.00047

Puelles, L., & Medina, L. (2002). Field homology as way to reconcile genetic and developmental variability with adult homology. Brain Research Bulletin, 57(3–4), 243–255.

Puelles, L., & Rubenstein, J. L. (2003). Forebrain gene expression domains and the evolving prosomeric model. Trends in Neuroscience, 26(9), 469–476. doi: 10.1016/S0166-2236(03)00234-0

Puelles, L. and Rubenstein J. L. (2015). A new scenario of hypothalamic organization: Rationale of new hypotheses introduced in the updated prosomeric model. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 9, 27. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2015.00027

Putnam, N. H., Butts, T., Ferrier, D. E. K., Furlong, R. F., Hellsten, U., Kawashima, T., … Rokshar, D. S. (2008). The amphioxus genome and the evolution of the chordate karyotype. Nature, 453(7198), 1064–1071. doi: 10.1038/nature06967


  • There are currently no refbacks.