Deregulated expression of EZH2 in congenital brainstem disconnection.

Mark McIntosh,'s picture
PubMed URL:
Baas F
Author List: 
Barth PG
Aronica E
Fox S
Fluiter K
Weterman MA
Poretti A
Miller DC
Boltshauser E
Harding B
Santi M
Baas F
Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol
PubMed ID: 
Congenital brainstem disconnection (CBSD) is an enigmatic embryo-fetal defect presenting as (sub)total absence of a segment between mesencephalon and lower brainstem. Rostro-caudal limits of the defect vary while the basal pons is always involved and the cerebellum is globally hypoplastic. A recent update and review[1] lists 14 cases, including 3 brain autopsy studies[1-3]. Necrosis and glial- or inflammatory reactions were absent. Inferior olivary nuclei were small or absent, pontine nuclei depleted, and the cerebellar dentate nuclei dysplastic. Supra-tentorial parts were normal in size, shape and microscopic structure. Frequent associated findings were vertebral segmentation defects(4/14) and hydronephrosis(3/14). No intra-familial recurrence or consanguinity were recorded. We considered interference with the developing rhombencephalon by an epigenetic mechanism as possible cause of CBSD. We probed the role of PRC2 (Polycomb Repressive Complex 2), member of the polycomb group of chromatin modifying proteins (PcG) with a cell-fate conserving function in organ development[4-7]. PRC2 acts by promotor binding as well as by modification of histone H3 through its catalytic subunit EZH2 (Enhancer of Zeste2) that tri-methylates the free ending tail of H3 at lysine 27 to H3K27me3 (with H3K27me2 as intermediate step). H3K27me3 blocks transcription of developmental genes to consolidate the mature stage of cell lineage on completed development[7]. Advantageous use can be made of anti-H3K27me3 antibody staining of nuclear chromatin on routinely prepared autopsy tissue sections to study EZH2 activity, an application more commonly used in neoplastic studies[8], but not routinely applied in human malformations. The absence of immunoreactivity in a developmental setting is due to immaturity, as in embryonic stem cells, or to an abnormal persistence (or even reversal) to that state with loss of control over tissue specific development. A large number of genes are known to undergo maturational silencing by histone modification. For example, EZH2 stabilizes the identity of individual vertebral body segments as well as brainstem development by silencing HOX genes[9,10]. Another role for EZH2, sustaining normal pontine neuron migration from the embryonic rhombic lip to the mature site of function has been identified by rhombomere specific knockout of Ezh2 in mouse embryos[11]. This finding prompted the present study. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Published Date: 
November, 2016

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