Post-translational modification of Ngn2 differentially affects transcription of distinct targets to regulate the balance between progenitor maintenance and differentiation

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Neurogenin 2 (Ngn2) controls neuronal differentiation cell-autonomously by transcriptional activation of targets such as NeuroD, while simultaneously controlling progenitor maintenance non-cell-autonomously by upregulating Delta expression and Notch signalling. Reduction in Cdk-dependent multisite phosphorylation of Ngn2 enhances its promoter binding affinity. This leads specifically to an increase in neuronal differentiation without an apparent increase in progenitor maintenance via Delta-Notch signalling, although the mechanism underlying this imbalance remains unclear. Here we show in Xenopus embryos and mouse P19 cells that the NeuroD promoter is substantially more sensitive to the phosphorylation status of Ngn2 than the Delta promoter, and that this can be attributed to differences in the ease of promoter activation. In addition, we also show that the phosphorylation status of Ngn2 regulates sensitivity to Notch signalling. These observations explain how Ngn2 post-translational modification in response to changes in the cell cycle kinase environment results in enhanced neuronal differentiation upon cell cycle lengthening.

Journal details

Journal Development
Volume 139
Issue number 10
Pages 1718-1723
Publication date