Loss of POGZ alters neural differentiation of human embryonic stem cells

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2022 May;120:103727. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2022.103727. Epub 2022 Mar 31.


POGZ is a pogo transposable element derived protein with multiple zinc finger domains. Many de novo loss-of-function (LoF) variants of the POGZ gene are associated with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the role of POGZ in human cortical development remains poorly understood. Here we generated multiple POGZ LoF lines in H9 human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) using CRISPR/CAS9 genome editing. These lines were then differentiated into neural structures, similar to those found in early to mid-fetal human brain, a critical developmental stage for studying disease mechanisms of neurodevelopmental disorders. We found that the loss of POGZ reduced neural stem cell proliferation in excitatory cortex-patterned neural rosettes, structures analogous to the cortical ventricular zone in human fetal brain. As a result, fewer intermediate progenitor cells and early born neurons were generated. In addition, neuronal migration from the apical center to the basal surface of neural rosettes was perturbed due to the loss of POGZ. Furthermore, cortical-like excitatory neurons derived from multiple POGZ homozygous knockout lines exhibited a more simplified dendritic architecture compared to wild type lines. Our findings demonstrate how POGZ regulates early neurodevelopment in the context of human cells, and provide further understanding of the cellular pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders associated with POGZ variants.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorders; CRISPR/CAS9 genome editing; Neurodevelopment; Neurodevelopmental disorders; Neuronal differentiation; Neuronal migration.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells* / cytology
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neural Stem Cells* / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Neurogenesis / genetics
  • Transposases* / genetics
  • Transposases* / metabolism


  • POGZ protein, human
  • Transposases