Background:Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by key features such as loss of neurons, astrocytosis, and microglial activation/proliferation. These changes cause differences in the density of cell types between control and disease subjects, confounding results from gene expression studies. Chromosome X (ChrX) is known to be specifically important in the brain. We hypothesized the existence of a chromosomal signature of gene expression associated with the X-chromosome for neurological conditions not normally associated with that chromosome. The hypothesis was investigated using publicly available microarray datasets from studies on Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Data were analyzed using Chromowave, an analytical tool for detecting spatially extended expression changes along chromosomes. To examine associations with neuronal density and astrocytosis, the expression of cell specific reporter genes was extracted. The association between these genes and the expression patterns extracted by Chromowave was then analyzed. Further analyses of the X:Autosome ratios for laser dissected neurons, microglia cultures and whole tissue were performed to detect cell specific differences. Results: We observed an extended pattern of low expression of ChrX consistent in all the neurodegenerative disease brain datasets. There was a strong correlation between mean ChrX expression and the pattern extracted from the autosomal genes representing neurons, but not with mean autosomal expression. No chromosomal patterns associated with the neuron specific genes were found on other chromosomes. The chromosomal expression pattern was not present in datasets from blood cells. The X:Autosome expression ratio was also higher in neuronal cells than in tissues with a mix of cell types. Conclusions: The results suggest that neurological disorders show as a reduction in mean expression of many genes along ChrX. The most likely explanation for this finding relates to the documented general up-regulation of ChrX in brain tissue which, this work suggests, occurs primarily in neurons. If validated, this cell specific ChrX expression warrants further research as understanding the biological reasons and mechanisms for this expression, may help to elucidate a connection with the development of neurodegenerative disorders.
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