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BMC Neurosci. 2014 Jan 17;15:16. doi: 10.1186/1471-2202-15-16.

Functional associations among G protein-coupled neurotransmitter receptors in the human brain.

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  • 1Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.



The activity of neurons is controlled by groups of neurotransmitter receptors rather than by individual receptors. Experimental studies have investigated some receptor interactions, but currently little information is available about transcriptional associations among receptors at the whole-brain level.


A total of 4950 correlations between 100 G protein-coupled neurotransmitter receptors were examined across 169 brain regions in the human brain using expression data published in the Allen Human Brain Atlas. A large number of highly significant correlations were found, many of which have not been investigated in hypothesis-driven studies. The highest positive and negative correlations of each receptor are reported, which can facilitate the construction of receptor sets likely to be affected by altered transcription of one receptor (such sets always exist, but their members are difficult to predict). A graph analysis isolated two large receptor communities, within each of which receptor mRNA levels were strongly cross-correlated.


The presented systematic analysis shows that the mRNA levels of many G protein-coupled receptors are interdependent. This finding is not unexpected, since the brain is a highly integrated complex system. However, the analysis also revealed two novel properties of global brain structure. First, receptor correlations are described by a simple statistical distribution, which suggests that receptor interactions may be guided by qualitatively similar processes. Second, receptors appear to form two large functional communities, which might be differentially affected in brain disorders.

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