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FASEB J. 2010 Sep;24(9):3341-50. doi: 10.1096/fj.10-158782. Epub 2010 Apr 29.

Gene expression atlas for human embryogenesis.

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State Key Laboratory of Virology, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, P.R. China.


Human embryogenesis is believed to involve an integrated set of complex yet coordinated development of different organs and tissues mediated by the changes in the spatiotemporal expression of many genes. Here, we report a genome-wide expression analysis during wk 4-9 of human embryogenesis, a critical period when most organs develop. About half of all human genes are expressed, and 18.6% of the expressed genes were significantly regulated during this important period. We further identified >5000 regulated genes, most of which previously were not known to be associated with animal development. Our study fills an important gap in mammalian developmental studies by identifying functional pathways involved in this critical but previously not studied period. Our study also revealed that the genes involved here are distinct from those during early embryogenesis, which include three groups of maternal genes. Furthermore, we discovered that genes in a given developmental process are regulated coordinately. This led us to develop an easily searchable database of this entire collection of gene expression profiles, allowing for the identification new genes important for a particular developmental process/pathway and deducing the potential function of a novel gene. The validity of the predictions from the database was demonstrated with two examples through spatiotemporal analyses of the two novel genes. Such a database should serve as a highly valuable resource for the molecular analysis of human development and pathogenesis.

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