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NIH Blueprint Non-Human Primate Atlas

The NIH Blueprint NHP atlas is an online database of gene expression in the rhesus macaque brain from birth to four years old.  The atlas is publicly accessible and allows users to search for gene expression data by gene, brain region, and age.

The atlas will serve as a valuable reference tool for developmental neuroscience research.   Among other things, it will allow researchers to examine how different genes and gene networks affect primate brain development, and to identify genetic targets for therapy in developmental disorders.  In combination with similar efforts to map gene expression in the mouse and human brain, it will enable researchers to examine what makes our brains unique.

The Blueprint NHP Atlas allows side by side comparison of gene expression patterns in the macaque brain at various ages.  Shown:  In situ hybridization data for six genes in the hippocampus at 48 months.  Credit: The Allen Institute

The atlas focuses on five brain regions affected in a variety of human neurodevelopmental disorders, including prefrontal cortex, primary visual cortex, hippocampus, amygdala and the ventral striatum.  Data are collected at birth, and at infant (3 months), juvenile (1 year) and young adult (4 years) stages.  The data include:

♦ Cellular resolution in situ hybridization (ISH) maps that allow researchers to focus on a gene of interest, and view its expression in the macaque brain across postnatal development.  The dataset includes genes known to be important in brain function, "marker" genes for specific anatomical regions and cell types, disease-related genes, and genes important in brain evolution.  (View an example of ISH data.)

♦ Microarray-based profiles that reveal the expression levels of nearly all ~20,000 genes in the macaque genome.  Researchers can compare genome-wide expression patterns across brain regions and ages.  In addition to the five brain regions mentioned above, the data will include a set of micro-dissected brain regions.  (View an example of microarray data.)

♦ MRI scans and Nissl-stained brain slices that will provide an anatomical frame of reference for the ISH and microarray data.  (Coming soon)