COVID-19 updates, including vaccine information, for our patients and visitors Learn More

Menu
Search

Researchers Reveal Repressor Protein Blocks Neural Stem Cell Development

 

October 10, 2007  |  

A protein known to repress gene transcription at the molecular level in a variety of processes also blocks embryonic neural stem cells from differentiating into neurons, according to a study by University of California, San Diego and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers published online October 10 in Nature.

The research team focused on a repressor protein called SMRT (silencing mediator of retinoic acid and thyroid hormone receptor), which has been shown to repress gene expression in a number of molecular pathways.  By creating a strain of “knock-out” mice missing the SMRT gene, the team was able to pinpoint significant alterations in brain development in the absence of SMRT.  These findings demonstrate the important role of this protein in preventing premature differentiation of specific brain cells from undifferentiated neural stem cells in utero.

“By showing that SMRT prevents differentiation by maintaining neural stem cells in a basic stem cell state, we now have a target to study further how stem cells restrict themselves from differentiating,” said first author Kristen Jepsen, Ph.D., an assistant research scientist at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. 

The research team also noted that in the SMRT-deficient mice, the brain exhibited signs of excessive exposure to retinoic acid--naturally occurring vitamin A--which is a known teratogen (an agent which causes birth defects).  This finding suggests that in addition to maintaining neural stem cells in a pre-differentiated state, the SMRT protein controls retinoic-acid induced differentiation and, when missing, abnormalities that mimic vitamin A exposure occur.

This finding provides scientists with one more important key to understanding how stem cells maintain their potential to grow into specific cells. 

“Incremental steps such as this lay the groundwork for continuing studies investigating the potential of stem cells to be used therapeutically to replace damaged or deficient cells associated with disease,” said Jepsen.

Co-authors of the Nature paper are Derek Solum, PhD, Tianyuan Zhou, PhD, Robert McEvilly, PhD and Hyun-Jung Kim, PhD, of HHMI and UC San Diego; Christopher Glass, MD, PhD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego; Ola Hermanson, PhD of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and senior author Michael G. Rosenfeld, M.D., HHMI investigator and professor of medicine at UC San Diego.

###

Media Contact: Leslie Franz, 619-543-6163, lfranz@ucsd.edu




Media Contact

Share This Article


Related News

10/18/2021
Leaders in cell biology and anti-malarial drug development respectively, JoAnn Trejo and Elizabeth Winzeler were recognized by their peers with one of the highest honors in health and medicine.
10/14/2021
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded researchers at University of California San Diego approximately $30 million over five years to expand and deepen longitudinal studies of the develop ...
10/13/2021
UC San Diego Health announces it has been recognized as a top performer in the 2021 Bernard A. Birnbaum, MD, Quality Leadership Annual Ranking by Vizient Inc.
10/13/2021
UC San Diego researchers report that conducting genomic evaluations of advanced malignancies can be effective in guiding first-line-of-treatment, rather than waiting until standard-of-care therapies h ...



Follow Us