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The role of a novel epigenetic regulatory mechanism in long-term memory formation, synaptic plasticity, and gene expression


Recent exome sequencing studies have implicated polymorphic BAF complexes (mammalian SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes) in several human intellectual disabilities and cognitive disorders. However, it is currently unknown how mutations in BAF complexes result in impaired cognitive function. Post mitotic neurons express a neuron specific assembly, nBAF, characterized by the neuron-specific subunit BAF53b. Mice harboring selective genetic manipulations of BAF53b have severe defects in long-term memory and long-lasting forms of hippocampal synaptic plasticity. We rescued memory impairments in BAF53b mutant mice by reintroducing BAF53b in the adult hippocampus, indicating a role for BAF53b beyond neuronal development. The defects in BAF53b mutant mice appear to derive from alterations in gene expression that produce abnormal postsynaptic components, such as spine structure and function, and ultimately lead to deficits in synaptic plasticity. My studies provide new insight into the role of dominant mutations in subunits of BAF complexes in human intellectual and cognitive disorders.

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