ZBTB20 is crucial for the specification of a subset of callosal projection neurons and astrocytes in the mammalian neocortex


Neocortical progenitor cells generate subtypes of excitatory projection neurons in sequential order followed by the generation of astrocytes. The transcription factor zinc finger and BTB domain-containing protein 20 (ZBTB20) has been implicated in regulation of cell specification during neocortical development. Here, we show that ZBTB20 instructs the generation of a subset of callosal projections neurons in cortical layers II/III in mouse. Conditional deletion of Zbtb20 in cortical progenitors, and to a lesser degree in differentiating neurons, leads to an increase in the number of layer IV neurons at the expense of layer II/III neurons. Astrogliogenesis is also affected in the mutants with an increase in the number of a specific subset of astrocytes expressing GFAP. Astrogliogenesis is more severely disrupted by a ZBTB20 protein containing dominant mutations linked to Primrose syndrome, suggesting that ZBTB20 acts in concert with other ZBTB proteins that were also affected by the dominant-negative protein to instruct astrogliogenesis. Overall, our data suggest that ZBTB20 acts both in progenitors and in postmitotic cells to regulate cell fate specification in the mammalian neocortex.