Differential requirements of tubulin genes in mammalian forebrain development

PLoS Genet. 2019 Aug 6;15(8):e1008243. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008243. eCollection 2019 Aug.


Tubulin genes encode a series of homologous proteins used to construct microtubules which are essential for multiple cellular processes. Neural development is particularly reliant on functional microtubule structures. Tubulin genes comprise a large family of genes with very high sequence similarity between multiple family members. Human genetics has demonstrated that a large spectrum of cortical malformations are associated with de novo heterozygous mutations in tubulin genes. However, the absolute requirement for many of these genes in development and disease has not been previously tested in genetic loss of function models. Here we directly test the requirement for Tuba1a, Tubb2a and Tubb2b in the mouse by deleting each gene individually using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. We show that loss of Tubb2a or Tubb2b does not impair survival but does lead to relatively mild cortical malformation phenotypes. In contrast, loss of Tuba1a is perinatal lethal and leads to significant forebrain dysmorphology. We also present a novel mouse ENU allele of Tuba1a with phenotypes similar to the null allele. This demonstrates the requirements for each of the tubulin genes and levels of functional redundancy are quite different throughout the gene family. The ability of the mouse to survive in the absence of some tubulin genes known to cause disease in humans suggests future intervention strategies for these devastating tubulinopathy diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Ethylnitrosourea / toxicity
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Editing
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malformations of Cortical Development / genetics*
  • Malformations of Cortical Development / mortality
  • Malformations of Cortical Development / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microtubules / genetics
  • Models, Animal
  • Mutagenesis / drug effects
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / abnormalities
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / embryology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Tubulin / genetics*
  • Tubulin / metabolism


  • Tuba1a protein, mouse
  • Tubb2a protein, mouse
  • Tubb2b protein, mouse
  • Tubulin
  • Ethylnitrosourea