NeuroD2 is sufficient to induce cell cycle arrest and neurogenic differentiation in nonneuronal cells. To determine whether this bHLH transcription factor was necessary for normal brain development, we used homologous recombination to replace the neuroD2 coding region with a β-galactosidase reporter gene. The neuroD2 gene expressed the reporter in a subset of neurons in the central nervous system, including in neurons of the neocortex and hippocampus and cerebellum. NeuroD2-/- mice showed normal development until about day P14, when they began exhibiting ataxia and failure to thrive. Brain areas that expressed neuroD2 were smaller than normal and showed higher rates of apoptosis. Cerebella of neuroD2-null mice expressed reduced levels of genes encoding proteins that support cerebellar granule cell survival, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Decreased levels of BDNF and higher rates of apoptosis in cerebellar granule cells of neuroD2-/- mice indicate that neuroD2 is necessary for the survival of specific populations of central nervous system neurons in addition to its known effects on cell cycle regulation and neuronal differentiation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Jeffrey Delrow of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Microarray Laboratory, Evan Yang, and Estrella Gonzalez for technical assistance and Richard Palmiter for Rota-Rod use. This work was supported by NIH NS36086 to S.J.T., the University of Washington Child Health Research Center (HD28834 to J.M.O.), a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences (J.M.O.), the Medical Research Council of Canada (R.H.), and a Keck Foundation grant to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Genomics Program.
- Microarray analysis
- Neurogenic bHLH transcription factors
- Neuronal apoptosis