Loss of the imprinted, non-coding Snord116 gene cluster in the interval deleted in the Prader Willi syndrome results in murine neuronal and endocrine pancreatic developmental phenotypes

Global neurodevelopmental delay is a prominent characteristic of individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). The neuromolecular bases for these delays are unknown. We identified neuroanatomical changes in the brains of mice deficient for a gene in the minimal critical deletion region for PWS (Snord116p-/m+). In Snord116p-/m+ mice, reduced primary forebrain neuron cell body size is apparent in embryonic day 15.5 fetuses, and persists until postnatal day 30 in cerebellar purkinje neurons. Snord116 is a snoRNA gene cluster of unknown function that can localize to the nucleolus. In cerebellar purkinje neurons from postnatal day 30 Snord116p-/m+ mice the reduction in neuronal cell body size was associated with decreased neuronal nucleolar size. We also identified developmental changes in the endocrine pancreas of Snord116p-/m+ animals that persist into adulthood. Mice lacking Snord116 have smaller pancreatic islets; within the islet the percentage of δ-cells is increased, while the percentage of α-cells is reduced. The α-cell markers, Sst and Hhex, are upregulated in Snord116p-/m+ isolated islets while Ins1, Ins2, Pdx1, Nkx6-1, and Pax6 are downregulated. There is a 3-fold increase in the percentage of polyhormonal cells in the neonatal pancreata of Snord116p-/m+ mice, due primarily to an increase in cells co-positive with somatostatin (SST). Snord116 may play a role in islet cell lineage specification. The Snord116 gene cluster is important for developmental processes in the brain as well as the endocrine pancreas.