Interactome analysis reveals ZNF804A, a schizophrenia risk gene, as a novel component of protein translational machinery critical for embryonic neurodevelopment

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Recent genome-wide association studies identified over 100 genetic loci that significantly associate with schizophrenia (SZ). A top candidate gene, ZNF804A, was robustly replicated in different populations. However, its neural functions are largely unknown. Here we show in mouse that ZFP804A, the homolog of ZNF804A, is required for normal progenitor proliferation and neuronal migration. Using a yeast two-hybrid genome-wide screen, we identified novel interacting proteins of ZNF804A. Rather than transcriptional factors, genes involved in mRNA translation are highly represented in our interactome result. ZNF804A co-fractionates with translational machinery and modulates the translational efficiency as well as the mTOR pathway. The ribosomal protein RPSA interacts with ZNF804A and rescues the migration and translational defects caused by ZNF804A knockdown. RNA immunoprecipitation-RNAseq (RIP-Seq) identified transcripts bound to ZFP804A. Consistently, ZFP804A associates with many short transcripts involved in translational and mitochondrial regulation. Moreover, among the transcripts associated with ZFP804A, a SZ risk gene, neurogranin (NRGN), is one of ZFP804A targets. Interestingly, downregulation of ZFP804A decreases NRGN expression and overexpression of NRGN can ameliorate ZFP804A-mediated migration defect. To verify the downstream targets of ZNF804A, a Duolink in situ interaction assay confirmed genes from our RIP-Seq data as the ZNF804A targets. Thus, our work uncovered a novel mechanistic link of a SZ risk gene to neurodevelopment and translational control. The interactome-driven approach here is an effective way for translating genome-wide association findings into novel biological insights of human diseases.

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