Cellular fate decisions in the developing female anteroventral periventricular nucleus are regulated by canonical Notch signaling

Matthew J. Biehl, Kerim B. Kaylan, Robert J. Thompson, Rachel V. Gonzalez, Karen E. Weis, Gregory H. Underhill, and Lori T. Raetzman. “Cellular fate decisions in the developing female anteroventral periventricular nucleus are regulated by canonical Notch signaling.” Developmental Biology 442: 87-100. June 2018.


The hypothalamic anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV) is the major regulator of reproductive function within the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. Despite an understanding of the function of neuronal subtypes within the AVPV, little is known about the molecular mechanisms regulating their development. Previous work from our laboratory has demonstrated that Notch signaling is required in progenitor cell maintenance and formation of kisspeptin neurons of the arcuate nucleus (ARC) while simultaneously restraining POMC neuron number. Based on these findings, we hypothesized that the Notch signaling pathway may act similarly in the AVPV by promoting development of kisspeptin neurons at the expense of other neuronal subtypes. To address this hypothesis, we utilized a genetic mouse model with a conditional loss of Rbpj in Nkx2.1 expressing cells (Rbpj cKO). We noted an increase in cellular proliferation, as marked by Ki-67, in the hypothalamic ventricular zone (HVZ) in Rbpj cKO mice at E13.5. This corresponded to an increase in general neurogenesis and more TH-positive neurons. Additionally, an increase in OLIG2-positive early oligodendrocytic precursor cells was observed at postnatal day 0 in Rbpj cKO mice. By 5 weeks of age in Rbpj cKO mice, TH-positive cells were readily detected in the AVPV but few kisspeptin neurons were present. To elucidate the direct effects of Notch signaling on neuron and glia differentiation, an in vitro primary hypothalamic neurosphere assay was employed. We demonstrated that treatment with the chemical Notch inhibitor DAPT increased mKi67 and Olig2 mRNA expression while decreasing astroglial Gfap expression, suggesting Notch signaling regulates both proliferation and early glial fate decisions. A modest increase in expression of TH in both the cell soma and neurite extensions was observed after extended culture, suggesting that inhibition of Notch signaling alone is enough to bias progenitors towards a dopaminergic fate. Together, these data suggest that Notch signaling restricts early cellular proliferation and differentiation of neurons and oligodendrocytes both in vivo and in vitro and acts as a fate selector of kisspeptin neurons.

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I am a fellow in the Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism and Physician Scientist Development Program at the University of Chicago. My doctoral research focused on tissue engineering approaches to study stem and progenitor cell fate in the developing liver. Learn more.



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