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The Gene that Folds the Brain

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on May 21, 2011

Yale: “Tiny Variation in One Gene May Have Led to Crucial Changes in Human BrainThe gene LAMC-3 is essential to the formation of convolutions in the human brain, but how it “evolved to gain [these] novel functions” remains a mystery.

Three patients lacking normal convolutions in their brains were found to have mutations in the LAMC-3 gene. This gene codes for the gamma chain of laminin. Laminins and collagen comprise the basement membranes beneath the body’s cells. There are many laminins, each consisting of various combinations of three subunits. The gamma-3 subunit is found in large amounts in the human brain late in gestation and in infancy when connections between neurons are rapidly forming.1 Although the LAMC-3 gene is present in “lower organisms with smooth brains,” this heavy concentration in the fetal brain is a human characteristic.

Calling the human cerebral cortex “the crown jewel of creation,” Yale’s Professor Gunel wonders how the LAMC-3 gene evolved to produce the abundant convolutions seen in humans. Only mammals with large brains have significant convolutions, which are most pronounced in humans. Convolutions greatly increase the brain’s surface area, and experts believe this feature makes complex thinking possible.

Further research may someday detect genetic factors which regulate the enhanced use of the gamma-3 chain of laminin in human brain formation. The presence of the same gene in multiple organisms and its enhanced role in humans does not require that humans evolved from inferior ancestors or that the LAMC-3 gene evolved to take on new roles. Rather, God used the same biochemistry in many creatures and created each fully functional with the genes properly regulated and no evolutionary experimentation necessary.

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  1. Barak, Tanyeri, et al. 2011. Recessive LAMC3 mutations cause malformations of occipital cortical development (Published online before print Nature Genetics doi:10.1038/ng.836).


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