Open Access Open Badges Research article

Non-coding-regulatory regions of human brain genes delineated by bacterial artificial chromosome knock-in mice

Jean-François Schmouth12, Mauro Castellarin34, Stéphanie Laprise1, Kathleen G Banks1, Russell J Bonaguro1, Simone C McInerny1, Lisa Borretta1, Mahsa Amirabbasi1, Andrea J Korecki1, Elodie Portales-Casamar1, Gary Wilson3, Lisa Dreolini3, Steven JM Jones2345, Wyeth W Wasserman125, Daniel Goldowitz15, Robert A Holt23456 and Elizabeth M Simpson1256*

Author affiliations

1 Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics at the Child and Family Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4H4, Canada

2 Genetics Graduate Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z2, Canada

3 Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4S6, Canada

4 Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6, Canada

5 Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada

6 Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 2A1, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Biology 2013, 11:106  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-11-106

Published: 14 October 2013



The next big challenge in human genetics is understanding the 98% of the genome that comprises non-coding DNA. Hidden in this DNA are sequences critical for gene regulation, and new experimental strategies are needed to understand the functional role of gene-regulation sequences in health and disease. In this study, we build upon our HuGX ('high-throughput human genes on the X chromosome’) strategy to expand our understanding of human gene regulation in vivo.


In all, ten human genes known to express in therapeutically important brain regions were chosen for study. For eight of these genes, human bacterial artificial chromosome clones were identified, retrofitted with a reporter, knocked single-copy into the Hprt locus in mouse embryonic stem cells, and mouse strains derived. Five of these human genes expressed in mouse, and all expressed in the adult brain region for which they were chosen. This defined the boundaries of the genomic DNA sufficient for brain expression, and refined our knowledge regarding the complexity of gene regulation. We also characterized for the first time the expression of human MAOA and NR2F2, two genes for which the mouse homologs have been extensively studied in the central nervous system (CNS), and AMOTL1 and NOV, for which roles in CNS have been unclear.


We have demonstrated the use of the HuGX strategy to functionally delineate non-coding-regulatory regions of therapeutically important human brain genes. Our results also show that a careful investigation, using publicly available resources and bioinformatics, can lead to accurate predictions of gene expression.

Humanized mouse models; Brain expression pattern; Eye expression pattern; Brain development; Reporter gene; Transgenic mice; Hprt locus; High-throughput; Bacterial artificial chromosome