Mnb/Dyrk1A orchestrates a transcriptional network at the transition from self-renewing neurogenic progenitors to postmitotic neuronal precursors
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The Down syndrome and microcephaly related gene Mnb/Dyrk1A encodes an evolutionary conserved protein kinase subfamily that plays important roles in neurodevelopment. minibrain (mnb) mutants of Drosophila melanogaster (Dm) exhibit reduced adult brains due to neuronal deficits generated during larval development. These deficits are the consequence of the apoptotic cell death of numerous neuronal precursors that fail to properly exit the cell cycle and differentiate. We have recently found that in both the Dm larval brain and the embryonic vertebrate central nervous system (CNS), a transient expression of Mnb/Dyrk1A promotes the cell cycle exit of newborn neuronal precursors by upregulating the expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27kip1 (called Dacapo in Dm). In the larval brain, Mnb performs this action by regulating the expression of three transcription factors, Asense (Ase), Deadpan (Dpn) and Prospero (Pros), which are key regulators of the self-renewal, proliferation, and terminal differentiation of neural progenitor cells. We have here studied in detail the cellular/temporal expression pattern of Ase, Dpn, Pros and Mnb, and have analyzed possible regulatory effects among them at the transitions from neurogenic progenitors to postmitotic neuronal precursors in the Dm larval brain. The emerging picture of this analysis reveals an intricate regulatory network in which Mnb appears to play a pivotal role helping to delineate the dynamics of the expression patterns of Ase, Dpn and Pros, as well as their specific functions in the aforementioned transitions. Our results also show that Ase, Dpn and Pros perform several cross-regulatory actions and contribute to shape the precise cellular/temporal expression pattern of Mnb. We propose that Mnb/Dyrk1A plays a central role in CNS neurogenesis by integrating molecular mechanisms that regulate progenitor self-renewal, cell cycle progression and neuronal differentiation.