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Neuron-Glia-Ratio-Like Approach Evidenced for Limited Variability and In-Aggregate Circadian Shifts in Cortical Cell-Specific Transcriptomes.

Regardless of shifts in levels of individual transcripts, it remains elusive whether natural variability in cell-specific transcriptomes within the cerebral cortex is limited in aggregate. It is also unclear whether cortical cell-specific transcriptomes might change dynamically in absence of cell number changes. Total variation in neuron- and glia-specific in-aggregate transcriptomes could be identified in a model-free way via glia-neuron ratio approach, by univariate median-to-median ratios comparing integral levels of cell-specific transcripts within a tissue sample. When deleterious, regenerative or developmental events affecting cortical cell numbers were subtle, median-to-median ratios demonstrated within-group variability not exceeding <20-25% in most cases. These levels of total variability might be explained in part by limited (~5-10%) circadian and stress-induced shifts in cell-specific cortical transcriptomes. Relevant in-aggregate transcriptomic alterations were identified after shifts in cell numbers induced by well-validated deleterious events including ischemia, traumatic injury, microglia's activation/depletion or specific mutations. Cortical median-to-median ratios also follow naturally occurring changes in the numbers of excitatory, inhibitory neurons and glial cells during perinatal brain development. These findings characterize cortical cell-specific transcriptomes as subjects to circadian shifts and lifetime events, urging the importance of reporting full details on an origin of any transcriptomic sample collected in vivo.

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