Posttranscriptional Regulation of Embryonic Neurogenesis by the Exon Junction Complex

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Mao, Hanqian


Silver, Debra L

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The six-layered neuron structure in the cerebral cortex is the foundation for human mental abilities. In the developing cerebral cortex, neural stem cells undergo proliferation and differentiate into intermediate progenitors and neurons, a process known as embryonic neurogenesis. Disrupted embryonic neurogenesis is the root cause of a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders, including microcephaly and intellectual disabilities. Multiple layers of regulatory networks have been identified and extensively studied over the past decades to understand this complex but extremely crucial process of brain development. In recent years, post-transcriptional RNA regulation through RNA binding proteins has emerged as a critical regulatory nexus in embryonic neurogenesis. The exon junction complex (EJC) is a highly conserved RNA binding complex composed of four core proteins, Magoh, Rbm8a, Eif4a3, and Casc3. The EJC plays a major role in regulating RNA splicing, nuclear export, subcellular localization, translation, and nonsense mediated RNA decay. Human genetic studies have associated individual EJC components with various developmental disorders. We showed previously that haploinsufficiency of Magoh causes microcephaly and disrupted neural stem cell differentiation in mouse. However, it is unclear if other EJC core components are also required for embryonic neurogenesis. More importantly, the molecular mechanism through which the EJC regulates embryonic neurogenesis remains largely unknown. Here, we demonstrated with genetically modified mouse models that both Rbm8a and Eif4a3 are required for proper embryonic neurogenesis and the formation of a normal brain. Using transcriptome and proteomic analysis, we showed that the EJC posttranscriptionally regulates genes involved in the p53 pathway, splicing and translation regulation, as well as ribosomal biogenesis. This is the first in vivo evidence suggesting that the etiology of EJC associated neurodevelopmental diseases can be ribosomopathies. We also showed that, different from other EJC core components, depletion of Casc3 only led to mild neurogenesis defects in the mouse model. However, our data suggested that Casc3 is required for embryo viability, development progression, and is potentially a regulator of cardiac development. Together, data presented in this thesis suggests that the EJC is crucial for embryonic neurogenesis and that the EJC and its peripheral factors may regulate development in a tissue-specific manner.





Mao, Hanqian (2016). Posttranscriptional Regulation of Embryonic Neurogenesis by the Exon Junction Complex. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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