Cell-autonomous impact of polysialic acid-producing enzyme ST8SIA2 on developmental migration and distribution of cortical interneurons

J Neurochem. 2020 Feb;152(3):333-349. doi: 10.1111/jnc.14896. Epub 2019 Nov 26.


In humans, variations in the polysialic acid-producing enzyme ST8SIA2 and disturbances in the cortical inhibitory system are associated with neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. In mice, the ST8SIA2-dependent formation of polysialic acid during embryonic development is crucial for the establishment of interneuron populations of the medial prefrontal cortex. However, the spatial pattern and the neurodevelopmental mechanisms of interneuron changes caused by loss of ST8SIA2 function have not been fully characterized. Here, we use immunohistochemical analysis to demonstrate that densities of parvalbumin-positive interneurons are not only reduced in the medial prefrontal cortex, but also in the adjacent motor and somatosensory cortices of St8sia2-deficient male mice. These reductions, however, were confined to the rostral parts of the analyzed region. Mice with conditional knockout of St8sia2 under the interneuron-specific Lhx6 promoter, but not mice with a deletion under the Emx1 promoter that targets cortical excitatory neurons and glia, largely recapitulated the area-specific changes of parvalbumin-positive interneurons in the anterior cortex of St8sia2-/- mice. Live imaging of interneuron migration in slice cultures of the developing cortex revealed a comparable reduction of directional persistence accompanied by increased branching of leading processes in slice cultures obtained from St8sia2-/- embryos or from embryos with interneuron-specific ablation of St8sia2. Together, the data demonstrate a cell-autonomous impact of ST8SIA2 on cortical interneuron migration and the distribution of parvalbumin-positive interneurons in the anterior cortex. This provides a neurodevelopmental mechanism for how dysregulation of ST8SIA2 may lead to disturbed inhibitory balance as observed in schizophrenia and autism.

Keywords: PSA-NCAM; autism; parvalbumin-positive interneurons; polysialic acid; prefrontal cortex; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Interneurons / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Sialyltransferases / metabolism*


  • Sialyltransferases
  • ST8SIA2 protein, mouse