Increased H3K9 methylation and impaired expression of Protocadherins are associated with the cognitive dysfunctions of the Kleefstra syndrome

Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Jun 1;46(10):4950-4965. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky196.


Kleefstra syndrome, a disease with intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders and other developmental defects is caused in humans by haploinsufficiency of EHMT1. Although EHMT1 and its paralog EHMT2 were shown to be histone methyltransferases responsible for deposition of the di-methylated H3K9 (H3K9me2), the exact nature of epigenetic dysfunctions in Kleefstra syndrome remains unknown. Here, we found that the epigenome of Ehmt1+/- adult mouse brain displays a marked increase of H3K9me2/3 which correlates with impaired expression of protocadherins, master regulators of neuronal diversity. Increased H3K9me3 was present already at birth, indicating that aberrant methylation patterns are established during embryogenesis. Interestingly, we found that Ehmt2+/- mice do not present neither the marked increase of H3K9me2/3 nor the cognitive deficits found in Ehmt1+/- mice, indicating an evolutionary diversification of functions. Our finding of increased H3K9me3 in Ehmt1+/- mice is the first one supporting the notion that EHMT1 can quench the deposition of tri-methylation by other Histone methyltransferases, ultimately leading to impaired neurocognitive functioning. Our insights into the epigenetic pathophysiology of Kleefstra syndrome may offer guidance for future developments of therapeutic strategies for this disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Chromosome Deletion
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 9 / metabolism
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / genetics
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / metabolism*
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / metabolism*
  • Craniofacial Abnormalities / psychology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / metabolism*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / psychology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Intellectual Disability / metabolism*
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Male
  • Methylation
  • Mice, Knockout


  • Cadherins
  • Histones
  • G9a protein, mouse
  • GLP protein, mouse
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase
  • Lysine

Supplementary concepts

  • Kleefstra Syndrome