Advances in mouse neural circuit genetics, brain atlases, and behavioral assays provide a powerful system for modeling the genetic basis of cognition and psychiatric disease. However, a critical limitation of this approach is how to achieve concordance of mouse neurobiology with the ultimate goal of understanding the human brain. Previously, the common marmoset has shown promise as a genetic model system toward the linking of mouse and human studies. However, the advent of marmoset transgenic approaches will require an understanding of developmental principles in marmoset compared to mouse. In this study, we used gene expression analysis in marmoset brain to pose a series of fundamental questions on cortical development and evolution for direct comparison to existing mouse brain atlas expression data. Most genes showed reliable conservation of expression between marmoset and mouse. However, certain markers had strikingly divergent expression patterns. The lateral geniculate nucleus and pulvinar in the thalamus showed diversification of genetic organization between marmoset and mouse, suggesting they share some similarity. In contrast, gene expression patterns in early visual cortical areas showed marmoset-specific expression. In prefrontal cortex, some markers labeled architectonic areas and layers distinct between mouse and marmoset. Core hippocampus was conserved, while afferent areas showed divergence. Together, these results indicate that existing cortical areas are genetically conserved between marmoset and mouse, while differences in areal parcellation, afferent diversification, and layer complexity are associated with specific genes. Collectively, we propose that gene expression patterns in marmoset brain reveal important clues to the principles underlying the molecular evolution of cortical and cognitive expansion.
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