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The molecular mechanisms that lead to the cognitive defects characteristic of Down syndrome (DS), the most frequent cause of mental retardation, have remained elusive. Here we use a transgenic DS mouse model (152F7 line) to show that DYRK1A gene dosage imbalance deregulates chromosomal clusters of genes located near neuron-restrictive silencer factor (REST/NRSF) binding sites. We found that Dyrk1a binds the SWI/SNF complex known to interact with REST/NRSF. The mutation of a REST/NRSF binding site in the promoter of the REST/NRSF target gene L1cam modifies the transcriptional effect of Dyrk1a-dosage imbalance on L1cam. Dyrk1a dosage imbalance perturbs Rest/Nrsf levels with decreased Rest/Nrsf expression in embryonic neurons and increased expression in adult neurons. Using transcriptome analysis of embryonic brain subregions of transgenic 152F7 mouse line, we identified a coordinated deregulation of multiple genes that are responsible for dendritic growth impairment present in DS. Similarly, Dyrk1a overexpression in primary mouse cortical neurons induced severe reduction of the dendritic growth and dendritic complexity. We propose that DYRK1A overexpression-related neuronal gene deregulation via disturbance of REST/NRSF levels, and the REST/NRSF–SWI/SNF chromatin remodelling complex, significantly contributes to the neural phenotypic changes that characterize DS.