• Open Access

The protocadherin 11X/Y (PCDH11X/Y) gene pair as determinant of cerebral asymmetry in modern Homo sapiens



Annett's right-shift theory proposes that human cerebral dominance (the functional and anatomical asymmetry or torque along the antero-posterior axis) and handedness are determined by a single “right-shift” gene. Familial transmission of handedness and specific deviations of cerebral dominance in sex chromosome aneuploidies implicate a locus within an X–Y homologous region of the sex chromosomes. The Xq21.3/Yp11.2 human-specific region of homology includes the protocadherin 11X/Y (PCDH11X/Y) gene pair, which encode cell adhesion molecules subject to accelerated evolution following the separation of the human and chimpanzee lineages six million years ago. PCDH11X and PCDH11Y, differentially regulated by retinoic acid, are highly expressed in the ventricular zone, subplate, and cortical plate of the developing cerebral cortex. Both proteins interact with β-catenin, a protein that plays a role in determining axis formation and regulating cortical size. In this way, the PCDH11X/Y gene pair determines cerebral asymmetry by initiating the right shift in Homo sapiens.