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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jul 12;108(28):11632-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1106230108. Epub 2011 Jun 27.

Cyclin D1 promotes neurogenesis in the developing spinal cord in a cell cycle-independent manner.

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Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125, USA.


Neural stem and progenitor cells undergo an important transition from proliferation to differentiation in the G1 phase of the cell cycle. The mechanisms coordinating this transition are incompletely understood. Cyclin D proteins promote proliferation in G1 and typically are down-regulated before differentiation. Here we show that motoneuron progenitors in the embryonic spinal cord persistently express Cyclin D1 during the initial phase of differentiation, while down-regulating Cyclin D2. Loss-of-function and gain-of-function experiments indicate that Cyclin D1 (but not D2) promotes neurogenesis in vivo, a role that can be dissociated from its cell cycle function. Moreover, reexpression of Cyclin D1 can restore neurogenic capacity to D2-expressing glial-restricted progenitors. The neurogenic function of Cyclin D1 appears to be mediated, directly or indirectly, by Hes6, a proneurogenic basic helic-loop-helix transcription factor. These data identify a cell cycle-independent function for Cyclin D1 in promoting neuronal differentiation, along with a potential genetic pathway through which this function is exerted.

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