The Human Y chromosome and its role in the developing male nervous system

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Recent research demonstrated that besides a role in sex determination and male fertility, the Y chromosome is involved in additional functions including prostate cancer, sex-specific effects on the brain and behaviour, graft-versus-host disease, nociception, aggression and autoimmune diseases. The results presented in this thesis include an analysis of sex-biased genes encoded on the X and Y chromosomes of rodents. Expression data from six different somatic tissues was analyzed and we found that the X chromosome is enriched in female biased genes and depleted of male biased ones. The second study described copy number variation (CNV) patterns in a world-wide collection of human Y chromosome samples. Contrary to expectations, duplications and not deletions were the most frequent variations. We also discovered novel CNV patterns of which some were significantly overrepresented in specific haplogroups. A substantial part of the thesis focuses on analysis of spatial expression of two Y-encoded brain-specific genes, namely PCDH11Y and NLGN4Y. The perhaps most surprising discovery was the observation that X and Y transcripts of both gene pairs are mostly expressed in different cells in human spinal cord and medulla oblongata. Also, we detected spatial expression differences for the PCDH11X gene in spinal cord. The main focus of the spatial investigations was to uncover genetically coded sexual differences in expression during early development of human central nervous system (CNS). Also, investigations of the expression profiles for 13 X and Y homolog gene pairs in human CNS, adult brain, testes and still-born chimpanzee brain samples were included. Contrary to previous studies, we found only three X-encoded genes from the 13 X/Y homologous gene pairs studied that exhibit female-bias. We also describe six novel non-coding RNAs encoded in the human MSY, some of which are polyadenylated and with conserved expression in chimpanzee brain. The description of dimorphic cellular expression patterns of X- and Y-linked genes should boost the interest in the human specific gene PCDH11Y, and draw attention to other Y-encoded genes expressed in the brain during development. This may help to elucidate the role of the Y chromosome in sex differences during early CNS development in humans.