Yichang Jia's group published 'TCF7L2 acts as a molecular switch in midbrain to control mammal vocalization through its DNA binding domain but not transcription activation domain' in Molecular Psychiatry



Vocalization is an essential medium for social signaling in birds and mammals. Periaqueductal gray (PAG) a conserved midbrain structure is believed to be responsible for innate vocalizations, but its molecular regulation remains largely unknown. Here, through a mouse forward genetic screening we identified one of the key Wnt/β-catenin effectors TCF7L2/TCF4 controls ultrasonic vocalization (USV) production and syllable complexity during maternal deprivation and sexual encounter. Early developmental expression of TCF7L2 in PAG excitatory neurons is necessary for the complex trait, while TCF7L2 loss reduces neuronal gene expressions and synaptic transmission in PAG. TCF7L2-mediated vocal control is independent of its β-catenin-binding domain but dependent of its DNA binding ability. Patient mutations associated with developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, disrupt the transcriptional repression effect of TCF7L2, while mice carrying those mutations display severe USV impairments. Therefore, we conclude that TCF7L2 orchestrates gene expression in midbrain to control vocal production through its DNA binding but not transcription activation domain.



Paper Link:https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-023-01993-5