Tbr1 haploinsufficiency impairs amygdalar axonal projections and results in cognitive abnormality.
ABSTRACT The neuron-specific transcription factor T-box brain 1 (TBR1) regulates brain development. Disruptive mutations in the TBR1 gene have been repeatedly identified in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Here, we show that Tbr1 haploinsufficiency results in defective axonal projections of amygdalar neurons and the impairment of social interaction, ultrasonic vocalization, associative memory and cognitive flexibility in mice. Loss of a copy of the Tbr1 gene altered the expression of Ntng1, Cntn2 and Cdh8 and reduced both inter- and intra-amygdalar connections. These developmental defects likely impair neuronal activation upon behavioral stimulation, which is indicated by fewer c-FOS-positive neurons and lack of GRIN2B induction in Tbr1(+/-) amygdalae. We also show that upregulation of amygdalar neuronal activity by local infusion of a partial NMDA receptor agonist, d-cycloserine, ameliorates the behavioral defects of Tbr1(+/-) mice. Our study suggests that TBR1 is important in the regulation of amygdalar axonal connections and cognition.
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ABSTRACT: The activity-regulated gene expression of transcription factors is required for neural plasticity and function in response to neuronal stimulation. T-brain-1 (TBR1), a critical neuron-specific transcription factor for forebrain development, has been recognized as a high-confidence risk gene for autism spectrum disorders. Here, we show that in addition to its role in brain development, Tbr1 responds to neuronal activation and further modulates the Grin2b expression in adult brains and mature neurons. The expression levels of Tbr1 were investigated using both immunostaining and quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analyses. We found that the mRNA and protein expression levels of Tbr1 are induced by excitatory synaptic transmission driven by bicuculline or glutamate treatment in cultured mature neurons. The upregulation of Tbr1 expression requires the activation of both α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Furthermore, behavioral training triggers Tbr1 induction in the adult mouse brain. The elevation of Tbr1 expression is associated with Grin2b upregulation in both mature neurons and adult brains. Using Tbr1-deficient neurons, we further demonstrated that TBR1 is required for the induction of Grin2b upon neuronal activation. Taken together with the previous studies showing that TBR1 binds the Grin2b promoter and controls expression of luciferase reporter driven by Grin2b promoter, the evidence suggests that TBR1 directly controls Grin2b expression in mature neurons. We also found that the addition of the calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) antagonist KN-93, but not the calcium-dependent phosphatase calcineurin antagonist cyclosporin A, to cultured mature neurons noticeably inhibited Tbr1 induction, indicating that neuronal activation upregulates Tbr1 expression in a CaMKII-dependent manner. In conclusion, our study suggests that Tbr1 plays an important role in adult mouse brains in response to neuronal activation to modulate the activity-regulated gene transcription required for neural plasticity.Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 09/2014; 8:280. · 4.18 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The T-box family of transcription factors exhibits widespread involvement throughout development in all metazoans. T-box proteins are characterized by a DNA-binding motif known as the T-domain that binds DNA in a sequence-specific manner. In humans, mutations in many of the genes within the T-box family result in developmental syndromes, and there is increasing evidence to support a role for these factors in certain cancers. In addition, although early studies focused on the role of T-box factors in early embryogenesis, recent studies in mice have uncovered additional roles in unsuspected places, for example in adult stem cell populations. Here, I provide an overview of the key features of T-box transcription factors and highlight their roles and mechanisms of action during various stages of development and in stem/progenitor cell populations.Development 10/2014; 141(20):3819-33. · 6.27 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Next-generation sequencing recently revealed that recurrent disruptive mutations in a few genes may account for 1% of sporadic autism cases. Coupling these novel genetic data to empirical assays of protein function can illuminate crucial molecular networks. Here we demonstrate the power of the approach, performing the first functional analyses of TBR1 variants identified in sporadic autism. De novo truncating and missense mutations disrupt multiple aspects of TBR1 function, including subcellular localization, interactions with co-regulators and transcriptional repression. Missense mutations inherited from unaffected parents did not disturb function in our assays. We show that TBR1 homodimerizes, that it interacts with FOXP2, a transcription factor implicated in speech/language disorders, and that this interaction is disrupted by pathogenic mutations affecting either protein. These findings support the hypothesis that de novo mutations in sporadic autism have severe functional consequences. Moreover, they uncover neurogenetic mechanisms that bridge different neurodevelopmental disorders involving language deficits.Nature Communications 09/2014; 5:4954. · 10.74 Impact Factor