Axon guidance pathways served as common targets for human speech/language evolution and related disorders.
Human and several nonhuman species share the rare ability of modifying acoustic and/or syntactic features of sounds produced, i.e. vocal learning, which is the important neurobiological and behavioral substrate of human speech/language. This convergent trait was suggested to be associated with significant genomic convergence and best manifested at the ROBO-SLIT axon guidance pathway. Here we verified the significance of such genomic convergence and assessed its functional relevance to human speech/language using human genetic variation data. In normal human populations, we found the affected amino acid sites were well fixed and accompanied with significantly more associated protein-coding SNPs in the same genes than the rest genes. Diseased individuals with speech/language disorders have significant more low frequency protein coding SNPs but they preferentially occurred outside the affected genes. Such patients' SNPs were enriched in several functional categories including two axon guidance pathways (mediated by netrin and semaphorin) that interact with ROBO-SLITs. Four of the six patients have homozygous missense SNPs on PRAME gene family, one youngest gene family in human lineage, which possibly acts upon retinoic acid receptor signaling, similarly as FOXP2, to modulate axon guidance. Taken together, we suggest the axon guidance pathways (e.g. ROBO-SLIT, PRAME gene family) served as common targets for human speech/language evolution and related disorders.
Lei, H; Yan, Z; Sun, X; Zhang, Y; Wang, J; Ma, C; Xu, Q; Wang, R; Jarvis, ED; Sun, Z
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