Copy number elevation of 22q11.2 genes arrests the developmental maturation of working memory capacity and adult hippocampal neurogenesis

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Abstract

Working memory capacity, a critical component of executive function, expands developmentally from childhood through adulthood. Anomalies in this developmental process are seen in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), schizophrenia and intellectual disabilities (ID), implicating this atypical process in the trajectory of developmental neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the cellular and neuronal substrates underlying this process are not understood. Duplication and triplication of copy number variants of 22q11.2 are consistently and robustly associated with cognitive deficits of ASD and ID in humans, and overexpression of small 22q11.2 segments recapitulates dimensional aspects of developmental neuropsychiatric disorders in mice. We capitalized on these two lines of evidence to delve into the cellular substrates for this atypical development of working memory. Using a region- and cell-type-selective gene expression approach, we demonstrated that copy number elevations of catechol-O-methyl-transferase (COMT) or Tbx1, two genes encoded in the two small 22q11.2 segments, in adult neural stem/progenitor cells in the hippocampus prevents the developmental maturation of working memory capacity in mice. Moreover, copy number elevations of COMT or Tbx1 reduced the proliferation of adult neural stem/progenitor cells in a cell-autonomous manner in vitro and migration of their progenies in the hippocampus granular layer in vivo. Our data provide evidence for the novel hypothesis that copy number elevations of these 22q11.2 genes alter the developmental trajectory of working memory capacity via suboptimal adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus.

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