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Diagnostics Genetics and epigenetics, Screening and monitoring, Neurology

Protein Expression In Neurogenesis: Right Place, Right Time?

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have made a breakthrough in understanding the spatiotemporal role of protein expression in brain development (1). They found that Phf21b – a cortex-specific PHD finger protein – is expressed at a particular time and location in the embryonic brain during neurogenesis to promote the birth of neurons from neural stem cells. When Phf21b is removed, this neuronal differentiation process is inhibited. Indeed, mutations at the Phf21b locus are known to be associated with intellectual disability and depression in humans.

“Our findings will have a major impact on the fundamental understanding of brain development and may lead to earlier diagnosis of brain disorders,” says Vijay Tiwari, lead researcher on the study. “It will prompt clinicians to consider genetic testing for Phf21b in such disorders and consider epigenetic analysis in future studies.”

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  1. A Basu et al., Gene Dev, 34, 1190 (2020). PMID: 32820037.

About the Author

Olivia Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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