Differential gene expression in layer 3 pyramidal neurons across 3 regions of the human cortical visual spatial working memory network

Cereb Cortex. 2022 Nov 9;32(22):5216-5229. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhac009.


Visual spatial working memory (vsWM) is mediated by a distributed cortical network composed of multiple nodes, including primary visual (V1), posterior parietal (PPC), and dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPFC) cortices. Feedforward and feedback information is transferred among these nodes via projections furnished by pyramidal neurons (PNs) located primarily in cortical layer 3. Morphological and electrophysiological differences among layer 3 PNs across these nodes have been reported; however, the transcriptional signatures underlying these differences have not been examined in the human brain. Here we interrogated the transcriptomes of layer 3 PNs from 39 neurotypical human subjects across 3 critical nodes of the vsWM network. Over 8,000 differentially expressed genes were detected, with more than 6,000 transcriptional differences present between layer 3 PNs in V1 and those in PPC and DLPFC. Additionally, over 600 other genes differed in expression along the rostral-to-caudal hierarchy formed by these 3 nodes. Moreover, pathway analysis revealed enrichment of genes in V1 related to circadian rhythms and in DLPFC of genes involved in synaptic plasticity. Overall, these results show robust regional differences in the transcriptome of layer 3 PNs, which likely contribute to regional specialization in their morphological and physiological features and thus in their functional contributions to vsWM.

Keywords: RNA sequencing; human; postmortem; pyramidal neuron; working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term* / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Visual Cortex* / physiology