During early cortical development, neural stem cells (NSCs) divide symmetrically to expand the progenitor pool, whereas in later stages, NSCs divide asymmetrically to self-renew and produce other cell types. The timely switch from such proliferative to differentiative division critically determines progenitor and neuron numbers. However, the mechanisms that limit proliferative division in late cortical development are not fully understood. Here, we show that the BAF (mSWI/SNF) complexes restrict proliferative competence and promote neuronal differentiation in late corticogenesis. Inactivation of BAF complexes leads to H3K27me3-linked silencing of neuronal differentiation-related genes, with concurrent H3K4me2-mediated activation of proliferation-associated genes via de-repression of Wnt signaling. Notably, the deletion of BAF complexes increased proliferation of neuroepithelial cell-like NSCs, impaired neuronal differentiation and exerted a Wnt-dependent effect on neocortical and hippocampal development. Thus, these results demonstrate that BAF complexes act as both activators and repressors to control global epigenetic and gene expression programs in late corticogenesis.
BAF (Brg/Brm-associated factors) complexes play important roles in development and are linked to chromatin plasticity at selected genomic loci. Nevertheless, a full understanding of their role in development and chromatin remodeling has been hindered by the absence of mutants completely lacking BAF complexes. Here, we report that the loss of BAF155/BAF170 in double-conditional knock-out (dcKO) mice eliminates all known BAF subunits, resulting in an overall reduction in active chromatin marks (H3K9Ac), a global increase in repressive marks (H3K27me2/3), and down-regulation of gene expression. We demonstrate that BAF complexes interact with H3K27 demethylases (JMJD3, UTX) and potentiate their activity. Importantly BAF complexes are indispensable for forebrain development, including proliferation, differentiation and cell survival of neural progenitor cells. Our findings reveal a molecular mechanism mediated by BAF complexes that controls global transcriptional program and chromatin state in development.