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Wnt/β-catenin signaling regulates sequential fate decisions of murine cortical precursor cells

Stem Cells. 2014 Sep 2. doi: 10.1002/stem.1820. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Draganova K, Zemke M, Zurkirchen L, Valenta T, Cantù C, Okoniewski M, Schmid MT, Hoffmans R, Götz M, Basler K, Sommer L.
Publication Date: 2014



The fate of neural progenitor cells (NPC) is determined by a complex interplay of intrinsic programs and extrinsic signals, very few of which are known. β-catenin transduces extracellular Wnt signals, but also maintains adherens junctions integrity. Here, we identify for the first time the contribution of β-catenin transcriptional activity as opposed to its adhesion role in the development of the cerebral cortex by combining a novel β-catenin mutant allele with conditional inactivation approaches. Wnt/β-catenin signaling ablation leads to premature NPC differentiation, but, in addition, to a change in progenitor cell cycle kinetics and an increase in basally dividing progenitors. Interestingly, Wnt/β-catenin signaling affects the sequential fate switch of progenitors, leading to a shortened neurogenic period with decreased number of both deep and upper-layer neurons and later, to precocious astrogenesis. Indeed, a genome-wide analysis highlighted the premature activation of a corticogenesis differentiation program in the Wnt/β-catenin signaling-ablated cortex. Thus, β-catenin signaling controls the expression of a set of genes that appear to act downstream of canonical Wnt signaling to regulate the stage-specific production of appropriate progenitor numbers, neuronal subpopulations, and astroglia in the forebrain.

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