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Neuron. 2013 Jun 19;78(6):986-93. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.04.021.

The X-linked intellectual disability protein PHF6 associates with the PAF1 complex and regulates neuronal migration in the mammalian brain.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Intellectual disability is a prevalent disorder that remains incurable. Mutations of the X-linked protein PHF6 cause the intellectual disability disorder Börjeson-Forssman-Lehmann syndrome (BFLS). However, the biological role of PHF6 relevant to BFLS pathogenesis has remained unknown. We report that knockdown of PHF6 profoundly impairs neuronal migration in the mouse cerebral cortex in vivo, leading to the formation of white matter heterotopias displaying neuronal hyperexcitability. We find that PHF6 physically associates with the PAF1 transcription elongation complex, and inhibition of PAF1 phenocopies the PHF6 knockdown-induced migration phenotype in vivo. We also identify Neuroglycan C/Chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 5 (NGC/CSPG5), a potential schizophrenia susceptibility gene, as a critical downstream target of PHF6 in the control of neuronal migration. These findings define PHF6, PAF1, and NGC/CSPG5 as components of a cell-intrinsic transcriptional pathway that orchestrates neuronal migration in the brain, with important implications for the pathogenesis of developmental disorders of cognition.

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