PLoS Genet. 2020;16(2):e1008590. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1008590
The 1.6 Mbp deletion on chromosome 3q29 is associated with a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia, autism, microcephaly, and intellectual disability. Despite its importance towards neurodevelopment, the role of individual genes, genetic interactions, and disrupted biological mechanisms underlying the deletion have not been thoroughly characterized. Here, we used quantitative methods to assay Drosophila melanogaster and Xenopus laevis models with tissue-specific individual and pairwise knockdown of 14 homologs of genes within the 3q29 region. We identified developmental, cellular, and neuronal phenotypes for multiple homologs of 3q29 genes, potentially due to altered apoptosis and cell cycle mechanisms during development. Using the fly eye, we screened for 314 pairwise knockdowns of homologs of 3q29 genes and identified 44 interactions between pairs of homologs and 34 interactions with other neurodevelopmental genes. Interestingly, NCBP2 homologs in Drosophila (Cbp20) and X. laevis (ncbp2) enhanced the phenotypes of homologs of the other 3q29 genes, leading to significant increases in apoptosis that disrupted cellular organization and brain morphology. These cellular and neuronal defects were rescued with overexpression of the apoptosis inhibitors Diap1 and xiap in both models, suggesting that apoptosis is one of several potential biological mechanisms disrupted by the deletion. NCBP2 was also highly connected to other 3q29 genes in a human brain-specific interaction network, providing support for the relevance of our results towards the human deletion. Overall, our study suggests that NCBP2-mediated genetic interactions within the 3q29 region disrupt apoptosis and cell cycle mechanisms during development.
Organism or Cell Type: