|Dr. Godwin Sokpor|
Increase in the size of human neocortex―acquired in evolution―accounts for the unique cognitive capacity ofhumans. This expansion reflects the evolutionarily enhanced proliferative ability of basal progenitors (BPs), includingthe basal radial glia and basal intermediate progenitors (bIPs) in mammalian cortex, which may have been acquiredthrough epigenetic alterations in BPs. However, how the epigenome in BPs differs across species is not known.Here, we report that histone H3 acetylation is a key epigenetic regulation in bIP amplification and cortical expansion.Through epigenetic profiling of sorted bIPs, we show that histone H3 lysine 9 acetylation (H3K9ac) is low inmurine bIPs and high in human bIPs. Elevated H3K9ac preferentially increases bIP proliferation, increasing the sizeand folding of the normally smooth mouse neocortex. H3K9ac drives bIP amplification by increasing expressionof the evolutionarily regulated gene, Trnp1, in developing cortex. Our findings demonstrate a previously unknownmechanism that controls cortical architecture.
Radial neuronal migration is a key neurodevelopmental event indispensable for proper cortical laminar organization. Cortical neurons mainly use glial fiber guides, cell adhesion dynamics, and cytoskeletal remodeling, among other discrete processes, to radially trek from their birthplace to final layer positions. Dysregulated radial migration can engender cortical mis-lamination, leading to neurodevelopmental disorders. Epigenetic factors, including chromatin remodelers have emerged as formidable regulators of corticogenesis. Notably, the chromatin remodeler BAF complex has been shown to regulate several aspects of cortical histogenesis. Nonetheless, our understanding of how BAF complex regulates neuronal migration is limited. Here, we report that BAF complex is required for neuron migration during cortical development. Ablation of BAF complex in the developing mouse cortex caused alteration in the cortical gene expression program, leading to loss of radial migration-related factors critical for proper cortical layer formation. Of note, BAF complex inactivation in cortex caused defective neuronal polarization resulting in diminished multipolar-to-bipolar transition and eventual disruption of radial migration of cortical neurons. The abnormal radial migration and cortical mis-lamination can be partly rescued by downregulating WNT signaling hyperactivity in the BAF complex mutant cortex. By implication, the BAF complex modulates WNT signaling to establish the gene expression program required for glial fiber-dependent neuronal migration, and cortical lamination. Overall, BAF complex has been identified to be crucial for cortical morphogenesis through instructing multiple aspects of radial neuronal migration in a WNT signaling-dependent manner.
Cortical morphogenesis entails several neurobiological events, including proliferation and differentiation of progenitors, migration of neuroblasts, and neuronal maturation leading to functional neural circuitry. These neurodevelopmental processes are delicately regulated by many factors. Endosomal SNAREs have emerged as formidable modulators of neuronal growth, aside their well-known function in membrane/vesicular trafficking. However, our understanding of their influence on cortex formation is limited. Here, we report that the SNAREs Vti1a and Vti1b (Vti1a/1b) are critical for proper cortical development. Following null mutation of Vti1a/1b in mouse, the late-embryonic mutant cortex appeared dysgenic, and the cortical progenitors therein were depleted beyond normal. Notably, cortical layer 5 (L5) is distinctively disorganized in the absence of Vti1a/1b. The latter defect, coupled with an overt apoptosis of Ctip2-expressing L5 neurons, likely contributed to the substantial loss of corticospinal and callosal projections in the Vti1a/1b-deficient mouse brain. These findings suggest that Vti1a/1b serve key neurodevelopmental functions during cortical histogenesis, which when mechanistically elucidated, can lend clarity to how endosomal SNAREs regulate brain development, or how their dysfunction may have implications for neurological disorders.
Fine-tuned gene expression is crucial for neurodevelopment. The gene expression program is tightly controlled at different levels, including RNA decay. N6-methyladenosine (m6A) methylation-mediated degradation of RNA is essential for brain development. However, m6A methylation impacts not only RNA stability, but also other RNA metabolism processes. How RNA decay contributes to brain development is largely unknown. Here, we show that Exosc10, a RNA exonuclease subunit of the RNA exosome complex, is indispensable for forebrain development. We report that cortical cells undergo overt apoptosis, culminating in cortical agenesis upon conditional deletion of Exosc10 in mouse cortex. Mechanistically, Exosc10 directly binds and degrades transcripts of the P53 signaling-related genes, such as Aen and Bbc3. Overall, our findings suggest a crucial role for Exosc10 in suppressing the P53 pathway, in which the rapid turnover of the apoptosis effectors Aen and Bbc3 mRNAs is essential for cell survival and normal cortical histogenesis.
Chromatin remodeling factor BAF155 is an important regulator of many biological processes. As a core and scaffold subunit of the BAF (SWI/SNF-like) complex, BAF155 is capable of regulating the stability and function of the BAF complex. The spatiotemporal expression of BAF155 during embryogenesis is essential for various aspects of organogenesis, particularly in the brain development. However, our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the expression and function of BAF155 is limited. Here, we report that RBM15, a subunit of the m6A methyltransferase complex, interacts with BAF155 mRNA and mediates BAF155 mRNA degradation through the mRNA methylation machinery. Ablation of endogenous RBM15 expression in cultured neuronal cells and in the developing cortex augmented the expression of BAF155. Conversely, RBM15 overexpression decreased BAF155 mRNA and protein levels, and perturbed BAF155 functions in vivo, including repression of BAF155-dependent transcriptional activity and delamination of apical radial glial progenitors as a hallmark of basal radial glial progenitor genesis. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the regulation of BAF155 by RBM15 depends on the activity of the mRNA methylation complex core catalytic subunit METTL3. Altogether, our findings reveal a new regulatory avenue that elucidates how BAF complex subunit stoichiometry and functional modulation are achieved in mammalian cells.
FOXG1 syndrome is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder associated with heterozygous FOXG1 variants or chromosomal microaberrations in 14q12. The study aimed at assessing the scope of structural cerebral anomalies revealed by neuroimaging to delineate the genotype and neuroimaging phenotype associations.
We compiled 34 patients with a heterozygous (likely) pathogenic FOXG1 variant. Qualitative assessment of cerebral anomalies was performed by standardized re‐analysis of all 34 MRI data sets. Statistical analysis of genetic, clinical and neuroimaging data were performed. We quantified clinical and neuroimaging phenotypes using severity scores. Telencephalic phenotypes of adult Foxg1+/− mice were examined using immunohistological stainings followed by quantitative evaluation of structural anomalies.
Characteristic neuroimaging features included corpus callosum anomalies (82%), thickening of the fornix (74%), simplified gyral pattern (56%), enlargement of inner CSF spaces (44%), hypoplasia of basal ganglia (38%), and hypoplasia of frontal lobes (29%). We observed a marked, filiform thinning of the rostrum as recurrent highly typical pattern of corpus callosum anomaly in combination with distinct thickening of the fornix as a characteristic feature. Thickening of the fornices was not reported previously in FOXG1 syndrome. Simplified gyral pattern occurred significantly more frequently in patients with early truncating variants. Higher clinical severity scores were significantly associated with higher neuroimaging severity scores. Modeling of Foxg1 heterozygosity in mouse brain recapitulated the associated abnormal cerebral morphology phenotypes, including the striking enlargement of the fornix.
Combination of specific corpus callosum anomalies with simplified gyral pattern and hyperplasia of the fornices is highly characteristic for FOXG1 syndrome.
The abundance of basal progenitors (BPs) - basal radial glia progenitors (bRGs) and basal intermediate progenitors (bIPs), in primate brain has been correlated to the high degree of cortical folding. Here we examined the role of BAF155, a subunit of the chromatin remodeling BAF complex, in generation of cortical progenitor heterogeneity. The conditional deletion of BAF155 led to diminished bIP pool and increased number of bRGs, due to delamination of apical RGs. We found that BAF155 is required for normal activity of neurogenic transcription factor PAX6, thus controlling expression of genes that are involved in bIP specification, cell-cell interaction and establishment of adherens junction. In PAX6-dependent manner, BAF155 regulates the expression of the CDC42 effector protein CEP4, thereby controlling progenitor delamination. Furthermore, BAF155-dependent chromatin remodeling seems to exert a specific role in the genesis of BPs through regulation of human RG-specific genes (such as Foxn4) that possibly acquired evolutionary significance.
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.
The generation of individual neurons (neurogenesis) during cortical development occurs in discrete steps that are subtly regulated and orchestrated to ensure normal histogenesis and function of the cortex. Notably, various gene expression programs are known to critically drive many facets of neurogenesis with a high level of specificity during brain development. Typically, precise regulation of gene expression patterns ensures that key events like proliferation and differentiation of neural progenitors, specification of neuronal subtypes, as well as migration and maturation of neurons in the developing cortex occur properly. ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes regulate gene expression through utilization of energy from ATP hydrolysis to reorganize chromatin structure. These chromatin remodeling complexes are characteristically multimeric, with some capable of adopting functionally distinct conformations via subunit reconstitution to perform specific roles in major aspects of cortical neurogenesis. In this review, we highlight the functions of such chromatin remodelers during cortical development. We also bring together various proposed mechanisms by which ATP-dependent chromatin remodelers function individually or in concert, to specifically modulate vital steps in cortical neurogenesis.
The postnatal mammalian olfactory epithelium (OE) represents a major aspect of the peripheral olfactory system. It is a pseudostratified tissue that originates from the olfactory placode and is composed of diverse cells, some of which are specialized receptor neurons capable of transducing odorant stimuli to afford the perception of smell (olfaction). The OE is known to offer a tractable miniature model for studying the systematic generation of neurons and glia that typify neural tissue development. During OE development, stem/progenitor cells that will become olfactory sensory neurons and/or non-neuronal cell types, display fine spatiotemporal expression of neuronal and non-neuronal genes that ensures their proper proliferation, differentiation, survival, and regeneration. Many factors, including transcription and epigenetic factors have been identified as key regulators of the expression of such requisite genes to permit normal OE morphogenesis. Typically, specific interactive regulatory networks established between transcription and epigenetic factors/cofactors orchestrate histogenesis in the embryonic and adult OE. Hence, investigation of these regulatory networks critical for OE development promises to disclose strategies that may be employed in manipulating the stepwise transition of olfactory precursor cells to become fully differentiated and functional neuronal and non-neuronal cell types. Such strategies potentially offer formidable means of replacing injured or degenerated neural cells as therapeutics for nervous system perturbations. This review recapitulates the developmental cellular diversity of the olfactory neuroepithelium and discusses findings on how the precise and cooperative molecular control by transcriptional and epigenetic machinery is indispensable for OE ontogeny.
The ATP-dependent BRG1/BRM associated factor (BAF) chromatin remodeling complexes are crucial in regulating gene expression by controlling chromatin dynamics. Over the last decade, it has become increasingly clear that during neural development in mammals, distinct ontogenetic stage-specific BAF complexes derived from combinatorial assembly of their subunits are formed in neural progenitors and post-mitotic neural cells. Proper functioning of the BAF complexes plays critical roles in neural development, including the establishment and maintenance of neural fates and functionality. Indeed, recent human exome sequencing and genome-wide association studies have revealed that mutations in BAF complex subunits are linked to neurodevelopmental disorders such as Coffin-Siris syndrome, Nicolaides-Baraitser syndrome, Kleefstra’s syndrome spectrum, Hirschsprung’s disease, autism spectrum disorder, and schizophrenia. In this review, we focus on the latest insights into the functions of BAF complexes during neural development and the plausible mechanistic basis of how mutations in known BAF subunits are associated with certain neurodevelopmental disorders.
Neurogenesis is a key developmental event through which neurons are generated from neural stem/progenitor cells. Chromatin remodeling BAF (mSWI/SNF) complexes have been reported to play essential roles in the neurogenesis of the central nervous system. However, whether BAF complexes are required for neuron generation in the olfactory system is unknown. Here, we identified onscBAF and ornBAF complexes, which are specifically present in olfactory neural stem cells (oNSCs) and olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs), respectively. We demonstrated that BAF155 subunit is highly expressed in both oNSCs and ORNs, whereas high expression of BAF170 subunit is observed only in ORNs. We report that conditional deletion of BAF155, a core subunit in both onscBAF and ornBAF complexes, causes impaired proliferation of oNSCs as well as defective maturation and axonogenesis of ORNs in the developing olfactory epithelium (OE), while the high expression of BAF170 is important for maturation of ORNs. Interestingly, in the absence of BAF complexes in BAF155/BAF170 double-conditional knockout mice (dcKO), OE is not specified. Mechanistically, BAF complex is required for normal activation of Pax6-dependent transcriptional activity in stem cells/progenitors of the OE. Our findings unveil a novel mechanism mediated by the mSWI/SNF complex in OE neurogenesis and development.
The multi-subunit chromatin-remodeling SWI/SNF (known as BAF for Brg/Brm-associated factor) complexes play essential roles in development. Studies have shown that the loss of individual BAF subunits often affects local chromatin structure and specific transcriptional programs. However, we do not fully understand how BAF complexes function in development because no animal mutant had been engineered to lack entire multi-subunit BAF complexes. Importantly, we recently reported that double conditional knock-out (dcKO) of the BAF155 and BAF170 core subunits in mice abolished the presence of the other BAF subunits in the developing cortex. The generated dcKO mutant provides a novel and powerful tool for investigating how entire BAF complexes affect cortical development. Using this model, we found that BAF complexes globally control the key heterochromatin marks, H3K27me2 and -3, by directly modulating the enzymatic activity of the H3K27 demethylases, Utx and Jmjd3. Here, we present further insights into how the scaffolding ability of the BAF155 and BAF170 core subunits maintains the stability of BAF complexes in the forebrain and throughout the embryo during development. Furthermore, we show that the loss of BAF complexes in the above-described model up-regulates H3K27me3 and impairs forebrain development and embryogenesis. These findings improve our understanding of epigenetic mechanisms and their modulation by the chromatin-remodeling SWI/SNF complexes that control embryonic development.
Neocortical GABAergic neurons have diverse molecular, structural and electrophysiological features, but the functional correlates of this diversity are largely unknown. We found unique membrane potential dynamics of somatostatin-expressing (SOM) neurons in layer 2/3 of the primary somatosensory barrel cortex of awake behaving mice. SOM neurons were spontaneously active during periods of quiet wakefulness. However, SOM neurons hyperpolarized and reduced action potential firing in response to both passive and active whisker sensing, in contrast with all other recorded types of nearby neurons, which were excited by sensory input. Optogenetic inhibition of SOM neurons increased burst firing in nearby excitatory neurons. We hypothesize that the spontaneous activity of SOM neurons during quiet wakefulness provides a tonic inhibition to the distal dendrites of excitatory pyramidal neurons. Conversely, the inhibition of SOM cells during active cortical processing likely enhances distal dendritic excitability, which may be important for top-down computations and sensorimotor integration.