The histone demethylase PHF8 regulates astrocyte differentiation and function

Development. 2021 Jun 15;148(12):dev194951. doi: 10.1242/dev.194951. Epub 2021 Jun 28.


Epigenetic factors have been shown to play a crucial role in X-linked intellectual disability (XLID). Here, we investigate the contribution of the XLID-associated histone demethylase PHF8 to astrocyte differentiation and function. Using genome-wide analyses and biochemical assays in mouse astrocytic cultures, we reveal a regulatory crosstalk between PHF8 and the Notch signaling pathway that balances the expression of the master astrocytic gene Nfia. Moreover, PHF8 regulates key synaptic genes in astrocytes by maintaining low levels of H4K20me3. Accordingly, astrocytic-PHF8 depletion has a striking effect on neuronal synapse formation and maturation in vitro. These data reveal that PHF8 is crucial in astrocyte development to maintain chromatin homeostasis and limit heterochromatin formation at synaptogenic genes. Our studies provide insights into the involvement of epigenetics in intellectual disability.

Keywords: Astrocyte differentiation; Chromatin transcription; Histone demethylation; PHF8; Synapse; XLID.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / cytology
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Binding Sites
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Differentiation* / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Histone Demethylases / genetics*
  • Histone Demethylases / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Biomarkers
  • Histones
  • Transcription Factors
  • Histone Demethylases
  • PHF8 protein, mouse