FOXG1 targets BMP repressors and cell cycle inhibitors in human neural progenitor cells

Hum Mol Genet. 2023 Jul 20;32(15):2511-2522. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddad089.


FOXG1 is a critical transcription factor in human brain where loss-of-function mutations cause a severe neurodevelopmental disorder, while increased FOXG1 expression is frequently observed in glioblastoma. FOXG1 is an inhibitor of cell patterning and an activator of cell proliferation in chordate model organisms but different mechanisms have been proposed as to how this occurs. To identify genomic targets of FOXG1 in human neural progenitor cells (NPCs), we engineered a cleavable reporter construct in endogenous FOXG1 and performed chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) sequencing. We also performed deep RNA sequencing of NPCs from two females with loss-of-function mutations in FOXG1 and their healthy biological mothers. Integrative analyses of RNA and ChIP sequencing data showed that cell cycle regulation and Bone Morphogenic Protein (BMP) repression gene ontology categories were over-represented as FOXG1 targets. Using engineered brain cell lines, we show that FOXG1 specifically activates SMAD7 and represses CDKN1B. Activation of SMAD7 which inhibits BMP signaling may be one way that FOXG1 patterns the forebrain, while repression of cell cycle regulators such as CDKN1B may be one way that FOXG1 expands the NPC pool to ensure proper brain size. Our data reveal novel mechanisms on how FOXG1 may control forebrain patterning and cell proliferation in human brain development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Cell Division
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors* / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neural Stem Cells* / metabolism


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • FOXG1 protein, human
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins

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