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Mamm Genome. 2012 Oct;23(9-10):539-49. doi: 10.1007/s00335-012-9406-2. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

High-resolution gene expression atlases for adult and developing mouse brain and spinal cord.

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The Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, WA 98103, USA.


Knowledge of the structure, genetics, circuits, and physiological properties of the mammalian brain in both normal and pathological states is ever increasing as research labs worldwide probe the various aspects of brain function. Until recently, however, comprehensive cataloging of gene expression across the central nervous system has been lacking. The Allen Institute for Brain Science, as part of its mission to propel neuroscience research, has completed several large gene-mapping projects in mouse, nonhuman primate, and human brain, producing informative online public resources and tools. Here we present the Allen Mouse Brain Atlas, covering ~20,000 genes throughout the adult mouse brain; the Allen Developing Mouse Brain Atlas, detailing expression of approximately 2,000 important developmental genes across seven embryonic and postnatal stages of brain growth; and the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas, revealing expression for ~20,000 genes in the adult and neonatal mouse spinal cords. Integrated data-mining tools, including reference atlases, informatics analyses, and 3-D viewers, are described. For these massive-scale projects, high-throughput industrial techniques were developed to standardize and reliably repeat experimental goals. To verify consistency and accuracy, a detailed analysis of the 1,000 most viewed genes for the adult mouse brain (according to website page views) was performed by comparing our data with peer-reviewed literature and other databases. We show that our data are highly consistent with independent sources and provide a comprehensive compendium of information and tools used by thousands of researchers each month. All data and tools are freely available via the Allen Brain Atlas portal (

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