A role for transcription factor GTF2IRD2 in executive function in Williams-Beuren syndrome

Melanie A. Porter, Carol Dobson-Stone, John B J Kwok, Peter R. Schofield, William Beckett, May Tassabehji

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    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Executive functions are amongst the most heritable cognitive traits with twin studies indicating a strong genetic origin. However genes associated with this domain are unknown. Our research into the neurodevelopmental disorder Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS) has identified a gene within the causative recurrent 1.5/1.6 Mb heterozygous microdeletion on chromosome 7q11.23, which may be involved in executive functioning. Comparative genome array screening of 55 WBS patients revealed a larger ~1.8 Mb microdeletion in 18% of cases, which results in the loss of an additional gene, the transcription factor GTF2IRD2. The GTF gene family of transcription factors (GTF2I, GTF2IRD1 and GTF2IRD2) are all highly expressed in the brain, and GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 are involved in the pathogenesis of the cognitive and behavioural phenotypes associated with WBS. A multi-level analysis of cognitive, behavioural and psychological functioning in WBS patients showed that those with slightly larger deletions encompassing GTF2IRD2 were significantly more cognitively impaired in the areas of spatial functioning, social reasoning, and cognitive flexibility (a form of executive functioning). They also displayed significantly more obsessions and externalizing behaviours, a likely manifestation of poor cognitive flexibility and executive dysfunction. We provide the first evidence for a role for GTF2IRD2 in higher-level (executive functioning) abilities and highlight the importance of integrating detailed molecular characterisation of patients with comprehensive neuropsychological profiling to uncover additional genotype-phenotype correlations. The identification of specific genes which contribute to executive function has important neuropsychological implications in the treatment of patients with conditions like WBS, and will allow further studies into their mechanism of action.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere47457
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2012


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