Mutations in TAF8 cause a neurodegenerative disorder

Brain. 2022 Sep 14;145(9):3022-3034. doi: 10.1093/brain/awac154.


TAF8 is part of the transcription factor II D complex, composed of the TATA-binding protein and 13 TATA-binding protein-associated factors (TAFs). Transcription factor II D is the first general transcription factor recruited at promoters to assemble the RNA polymerase II preinitiation complex. So far disorders related to variants in 5 of the 13 subunits of human transcription factor II D have been described. Recently, a child with a homozygous c.781-1G>A mutation in TAF8 has been reported. Here we describe seven further patients with mutations in TAF8 and thereby confirm the TAF8 related disorder. In two sibling patients, we identified two novel compound heterozygous TAF8 splice site mutations, c.45+4A > G and c.489G>A, which cause aberrant splicing as well as reduced expression and mislocalization of TAF8. In five further patients, the previously described c.781-1G > A mutation was present on both alleles. The clinical phenotype associated with the different TAF8 mutations is characterized by severe psychomotor retardation with almost absent development, feeding problems, microcephaly, growth retardation, spasticity and epilepsy. Cerebral imaging showed hypomyelination, a thin corpus callosum and brain atrophy. Moreover, repeated imaging in the sibling pair demonstrated progressive cerebral and cerebellar atrophy. Consistently, reduced N-acetylaspartate, a marker of neuronal viability, was observed on magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Further review of the literature shows that mutations causing a reduced expression of transcription factor II D subunits have an overlapping phenotype of microcephaly, developmental delay and intellectual disability. Although transcription factor II D plays an important role in RNA polymerase II transcription in all cells and tissues, the symptoms associated with such defects are almost exclusively neurological. This might indicate a specific vulnerability of neuronal tissue to widespread deregulation of gene expression as also seen in Rett syndrome or Cornelia de Lange syndrome.

Keywords: TAF8; TFIID; neurodegenerative; psychomotor retardation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrophy / complications
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Microcephaly* / genetics
  • Mutation
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / complications
  • Phenotype
  • RNA Polymerase II
  • TATA-Box Binding Protein / genetics
  • Transcription Factor TFIID* / genetics


  • TAF8 protein, human
  • TATA-Box Binding Protein
  • Transcription Factor TFIID
  • RNA Polymerase II