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PLoS Biol. 2017 May 3;15(5):e2001220. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001220. eCollection 2017 May.

Smek promotes corticogenesis through regulating Mbd3's stability and Mbd3/NuRD complex recruitment to genes associated with neurogenesis.

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Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.


The fate of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) during corticogenesis is determined by a complex interplay of genetic or epigenetic components, but the underlying mechanism is incompletely understood. Here, we demonstrate that Suppressor of Mek null (Smek) interact with methyl-CpG-binding domain 3 (Mbd3) and the complex plays a critical role in self-renewal and neuronal differentiation of NPCs. We found that Smek promotes Mbd3 polyubiquitylation and degradation, blocking recruitment of the repressive Mbd3/nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase (NuRD) complex at the neurogenesis-associated gene loci, and, as a consequence, increasing acetyl histone H3 activity and cortical neurogenesis. Furthermore, overexpression of Mbd3 significantly blocked neuronal differentiation of NPCs, and Mbd3 depletion rescued neurogenesis defects seen in Smek1/2 knockout mice. These results reveal a novel molecular mechanism underlying Smek/Mbd3/NuRD axis-mediated control of NPCs' self-renewal and neuronal differentiation during mammalian corticogenesis.

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