Several genes implicated in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are chromatin regulators, including POGZ. The cellular and molecular mechanisms leading to ASD impaired social and cognitive behavior are unclear. Animal models are crucial for studying the effects of mutations on brain function and behavior as well as unveiling the underlying mechanisms. Here, we generate a brain specific conditional knockout mouse model deficient for Pogz, an ASD risk gene. We demonstrate that Pogz deficient mice show microcephaly, growth impairment, increased sociability, learning and motor deficits, mimicking several of the human symptoms. At the molecular level, luciferase reporter assay indicates that POGZ is a negative regulator of transcription. In accordance, in Pogz deficient mice we find a significant upregulation of gene expression, most notably in the cerebellum. Gene set enrichment analysis revealed that the transcriptional changes encompass genes and pathways disrupted in ASD, including neurogenesis and synaptic processes, underlying the observed behavioral phenotype in mice. Physiologically, Pogz deficiency is associated with a reduction in the firing frequency of simple and complex spikes and an increase in amplitude of the inhibitory synaptic input in cerebellar Purkinje cells. Our findings support a mechanism linking heterochromatin dysregulation to cerebellar circuit dysfunction and behavioral abnormalities in ASD.
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© 2020, The Author(s).