Neonatal Tbr1 Dosage Controls Cortical Layer 6 Connectivity

Published in Neuron, 2018

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An understanding of how heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) risk genes, such as TBR1, contribute to ASD remains elusive. Conditional Tbr1 deletion during late mouse gestation in cortical layer 6 neurons (Tbr1-layer6 mutants) provides novel insights into its function, including dendritic patterning, synaptogenesis, and cell-intrinsic physiology. These phenotypes occur in heterozygotes, providing insights into mechanisms that may underlie ASD pathophysiology. Restoring expression of Wnt7b largely rescues the synaptic deficit in Tbr1-layer6 mutant neurons. Furthermore, Tbr1-layer6 heterozygotes have increased anxiety-like behavior, a phenotype seen ASD. Integrating TBR1 chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) and RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data from layer 6 neurons and activity of TBR1-bound candidate enhancers provides evidence for how TBR1 regulates layer 6 properties. Moreover, several putative TBR1 targets are ASD risk genes, placing TBR1 in a central position both for ASD risk and for regulating transcriptional circuits that control multiple steps in layer 6 development essential for the assembly of neural circuits.