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J Neurosci. 2010 Jul 7;30(27):9127-39. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6167-09.2010.

NFIA controls telencephalic progenitor cell differentiation through repression of the Notch effector Hes1.

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Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


The balance between self-renewal and differentiation of neural progenitor cells is an absolute requirement for the correct formation of the nervous system. Much is known about both the pathways involved in progenitor cell self-renewal, such as Notch signaling, and the expression of genes that initiate progenitor differentiation. However, whether these fundamental processes are mechanistically linked, and specifically how repression of progenitor self-renewal pathways occurs, is poorly understood. Nuclear factor I A (Nfia), a gene known to regulate spinal cord and neocortical development, has recently been implicated as acting downstream of Notch to initiate the expression of astrocyte-specific genes within the cortex. Here we demonstrate that, in addition to activating the expression of astrocyte-specific genes, Nfia also downregulates the activity of the Notch signaling pathway via repression of the key Notch effector Hes1. These data provide a significant conceptual advance in our understanding of neural progenitor differentiation, revealing that a single transcription factor can control both the activation of differentiation genes and the repression of the self-renewal genes, thereby acting as a pivotal regulator of the balance between progenitor and differentiated cell states.

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