During the development of multicellular organisms, chromatin-modifying enzymes orchestrate the establishment of gene expression programmes that characterise each differentiated cell type. These enzymes also contribute to the maintenance of cell type-specific transcription profiles throughout life. But what happens when epigenomic regulation goes awry? Genomic screens in experimental models of intellectual disability disorders (IDDs) caused by mutations in epigenetic machinery-encoding genes have shown that transcriptional dysregulation constitutes a hallmark of these conditions. Here, we underscore the connections between a subset of chromatin-linked IDDs and spurious transcription in brain cells. We also propose that aberrant gene expression in neurons, including both the ectopic transcription of non-neuronal genes and the activation of cryptic promoters, may importantly contribute to the pathoaetiology of these disorders.
- intellectual disability
- histone posttranslational modification
- DNA methylation
- gene silencing
- cryptic promoters
- ectopic expression
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