Intellectual disability-associated factor Zbtb11 cooperates with NRF-2/GABP to control mitochondrial function

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Zbtb11 is a conserved transcription factor mutated in families with hereditary intellectual disability. Its precise molecular and cellular functions are currently unknown, precluding our understanding of the aetiology of this disease. Using a combination of functional genomics, genetic and biochemical approaches, here we show that Zbtb11 plays essential roles in maintaining the homeostasis of mitochondrial function. Mechanistically, we find Zbtb11 facilitates the recruitment of nuclear respiratory factor 2 (NRF-2) to its target promoters, activating a subset of nuclear genes with roles in the biogenesis of respiratory complex I and the mitoribosome. Genetic inactivation of Zbtb11 resulted in a severe complex I assembly defect, impaired mitochondrial respiration, mitochondrial depolarisation, and ultimately proliferation arrest and cell death. Experimental modelling of the pathogenic human mutations showed these have a destabilising effect on the protein, resulting in reduced Zbtb11 dosage, downregulation of its target genes, and impaired complex I biogenesis. Our study establishes Zbtb11 as an essential mitochondrial regulator, improves our understanding of the transcriptional mechanisms of nuclear control over mitochondria, and may help to understand the aetiology of Zbtb11-associated intellectual disability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5469
Number of pages20
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date29 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Transcriptional regulation
  • Human genetics
  • Genetic diseases
  • mitochondria


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