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Development of neurodevelopmental disorders: a regulatory mechanism involving bromodomain-containing proteins

Junlin Li12, Guifang Zhao1 and Xiaocai Gao123*

Author Affiliations

1 Key Laboratory of Resource Biology and Biotechnology in Western China, Ministry of Education, College of Life Science, Northwest University, Xi’an 710069, People’s Republic of China

2 Institute of Population and Health, College of Life Science, Northwest University, Xi’an 710069, People’s Republic of China

3 Current address: Taibai Road 229#, Xi’an 710069, People’s Republic of China

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Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders 2013, 5:4  doi:10.1186/1866-1955-5-4

Published: 20 February 2013


Neurodevelopmental disorders are classified as diseases that cause abnormal functions of the brain or central nervous system. Children with neurodevelopmental disorders show impaired language and speech abilities, learning and memory damage, and poor motor skills. However, we still know very little about the molecular etiology of these disorders. Recent evidence implicates the bromodomain-containing proteins (BCPs) in the initiation and development of neurodevelopmental disorders. BCPs have a particular domain, the bromodomain (Brd), which was originally identified as specifically binding acetyl-lysine residues at the N-terminus of histone proteins in vitro and in vivo. Other domains of BCPs are responsible for binding partner proteins to form regulatory complexes. Once these complexes are assembled, BCPs alter chromosomal states and regulate gene expression. Some BCP complexes bind nucleosomes, are involved in basal transcription regulation, and influence the transcription of many genes. However, most BCPs are involved in targeting. For example, some BCPs function as a recruitment platform or scaffold through their Brds-binding targeting sites. Others are recruited to form a complex to bind the targeting sites of their partners. The regulation mediated by these proteins is especially critical during normal and abnormal development. Mutant BCPs or dysfunctional BCP-containing complexes are implicated in the initiation and development of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, the pathogenic molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. In this review, we focus on the roles of regulatory BCPs associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, including mental retardation, Fragile X syndrome (FRX), Williams syndrome (WS), Rett syndrome and Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RTS). A better understanding of the molecular pathogenesis, based upon the roles of BCPs, will lead to screening of targets for the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Bromodomain; Chromatin acetylation; Transcriptional regulation; Neurodevelopmental disorder