FOXP transcription factors in vertebrate brain development, function, and disorders

FOXP transcription factors are an evolutionarily ancient protein subfamily coordinating the development of several organ systems in the vertebrate body. Association of their genes with neurodevelopmental disorders has sparked particular interest in their expression patterns and functions in the brain. Here, FOXP1, FOXP2, and FOXP4 are expressed in distinct cell type-specific spatiotemporal patterns in multiple regions, including the cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, basal ganglia, thalamus, and cerebellum. These varied sites and timepoints of expression have complicated efforts to link FOXP1 and FOXP2 mutations to their respective developmental disorders, the former affecting global neural functions and the latter specifically affecting speech and language. However, the use of animal models, particularly those with brain region- and cell type-specific manipulations, has greatly advanced our understanding of how FOXP expression patterns could underlie disorder-related phenotypes. While many questions remain regarding FOXP expression and function in the brain, studies to date have illuminated the roles of these transcription factors in vertebrate brain development and have greatly informed our understanding of human development and disorders. This article is categorized under: Nervous System Development > Vertebrates: General Principles Gene Expression and Transcriptional Hierarchies > Gene Networks and Genomics Nervous System Development > Vertebrates: Regional Development.

Keywords: Foxp; autism; brain; gene expression; transcriptional regulation.