A convergent mechanism of high risk factors ADNP and POGZ in neurodevelopmental disorders

Brain. 2022 Sep 14;145(9):3250-3263. doi: 10.1093/brain/awac152.


ADNP and POGZ are two top-ranking risk factors for autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, but how they are linked to these neurodevelopmental disorders is largely unknown. Both ADNP and POGZ are chromatin regulators, which could profoundly affect gene transcription and cellular function in the brain. Using post-mortem tissue from patients with autism spectrum disorder, we found diminished expression of ADNP and POGZ in the prefrontal cortex, a region highly implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders. To understand the functional role of these neurodevelopmental disorder risk factors, we used viral-based gene transfer to investigate how Adnp or Pogz deficiency in mouse prefrontal cortex affects behavioural, transcriptomic and synaptic function. Mice with prefrontal cortex deficiency of Adnp or Pogz exhibited specific impairment of cognitive task performance. RNA-sequencing revealed that Adnp or Pogz deficiency induced prominent upregulation of overlapping genes enriched in neuroinflammation, similar to the elevation of pro-inflammatory genes in humans with neurodevelopmental disorders. Concomitantly, Adnp or Pogz deficiency led to the significant increase of pro-phagocytic microglial activation in prefrontal cortex, as well as the significant decrease of glutamatergic transmission and postsynaptic protein expression. These findings have uncovered the convergent functions of two top risk factors for autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability in prefrontal cortex, providing a mechanism linking chromatin, transcriptional and synaptic dysregulation to cognitive deficits associated with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Keywords: ADNP; POGZ; microglia; neurodevelopmental disorders; synaptic deficits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins* / genetics
  • Chromatin
  • DNA-Binding Proteins* / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability* / complications
  • Intellectual Disability* / genetics
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins* / genetics
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders* / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • Transposases / genetics
  • Transposases / metabolism


  • Adnp protein, mouse
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Chromatin
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Pogz protein, mouse
  • Transposases