Gene expression profiling of brain tissue samples applied to DNA microarrays promises to provide novel insights into the neurobiological bases of primate behavior. The strength of the microarray technology lies in the ability to simultaneously measure the expression levels of all genes in defined brain regions that are known to mediate behavior. The application of microarrays presents, however, various limitations and challenges for primate neuroscience research. Low RNA abundance, modest changes in gene expression, heterogeneous distribution of mRNA among cell subpopulations, and individual differences in behavior all mandate great care in the collection, processing, and analysis of brain tissue. A unique problem for nonhuman primate research is the limited availability of species-specific arrays. Arrays designed for humans are often used, but expression level differences are inevitably confounded by gene sequence differences in all cross-species array applications. Tools to deal with this problem are currently being developed. Here we review these methodological issues, and provide examples from our experiences using human arrays to examine brain tissue samples from squirrel monkeys. Until species-specific microarrays become more widely available, great caution must be taken in the assessment and interpretation of microarray data from nonhuman primates. Nevertheless, the application of human microarrays in nonhuman primate neuroscience research recovers useful information from thousands of genes, and represents an important new strategy for understanding the molecular complexity of behavior and mental health.
- Gene expression
- Prefrontal cortex