Research Article

Oscillatory Control of Factors Determining Multipotency and Fate in Mouse Neural Progenitors

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Science  06 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6163, pp. 1203-1208
DOI: 10.1126/science.1242366

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Oscillation Stabilizes the Progenitor State

Transcription factors regulate fate choice between different neural lineages, but the same transcription factors are also expressed in neural progenitor cells. Imayoshi et al. (p. 1203, published online 31 October) analyzed the details of expression of several transcription factors in mouse neural cells. In neural progenitor cells, several different transcription factors were expressed in an oscillatory manner, whereas differentiated neurons stably expressed a single lineage-specific factor.


The basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors Ascl1/Mash1, Hes1, and Olig2 regulate fate choice of neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes, respectively. These same factors are coexpressed by neural progenitor cells. Here, we found by time-lapse imaging that these factors are expressed in an oscillatory manner by mouse neural progenitor cells. In each differentiation lineage, one of the factors becomes dominant. We used optogenetics to control expression of Ascl1 and found that, although sustained Ascl1 expression promotes neuronal fate determination, oscillatory Ascl1 expression maintains proliferating neural progenitor cells. Thus, the multipotent state correlates with oscillatory expression of several fate-determination factors, whereas the differentiated state correlates with sustained expression of a single factor.

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