Microtubules play a crucial role in the generation, migration and differentiation of nascent neurons in the developing vertebrate brain. Mutations in the constituents of microtubules, the tubulins, are known to cause an array of neurological disorders, including lissencephaly, polymicrogyria and microcephaly. In this study we explore the genetic and cellular mechanisms that cause TUBB5-associated microcephaly by exploiting two new mouse models: a conditional E401K knock-in, and a conditional knockout animal. These mice present with profound microcephaly due to a loss of upper-layer neurons that correlates with massive apoptosis and upregulation of p53. This phenotype is associated with a delay in cell cycle progression and ectopic DNA elements in progenitors, which is dependent on the dosage of functional Tubb5. Strikingly, we report ectopic Sox2-positive progenitors and defects in spindle orientation in our knock-in mouse line, which are absent in knockout animals. This work sheds light on the functional repertoire of Tubb5, reveals that the E401K mutation acts by a complex mechanism, and demonstrates that the cellular pathology driving TUBB5-associated microcephaly is cell death.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Microcephaly; Trp53; Tubulin.
© 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.