Establishment and maintenance of a functional central nervous system (CNS) requires a highly orchestrated process of neural progenitor cell proliferation, cell cycle exit, and differentiation. An evolutionary conserved program consisting of Notch signalling mediated by basic Helix-Loop-Helix (bHLH) transcription factor activity is necessary for both the maintenance of neural progenitor cell character and the progression of neurogenesis; however, additional players in mammalian CNS neural specification remain largely unknown. In Drosophila we recently characterized Hamlet, a transcription factor that mediates Notch signalling and neural cell fate.
Hamlet is a member of the Prdm (PRDI-BF1 and RIZ homology domain containing) proto-oncogene transcription factor family, and in this study we report that multiple genes in the Prdm family (Prdm6, 8, 12, 13 and 16) are expressed in the developing mouse CNS in a spatially and temporally restricted manner. In developing spinal cord Prdm8, 12 and 13 are expressed in precise neuronal progenitor zones suggesting that they may specify discrete neuronal subtypes. In developing telencephalon Prdm12 and 16 are expressed in the ventricular zone in a lateral to medial graded manner, and Prdm8 is expressed in a complementary domain in postmitotic neurons. In postnatal brain Prdm8 additionally shows restricted expression in cortical layers 2/3 and 4, the hippocampus, and the amygdala. To further elucidate roles of Prdm8 and 16 in the developing telencephalon we analyzed the relationship between these factors and the bHLH Hes (Hairy and enhancer of split homolog) effectors of Notch signalling. In Hes null telencephalon neural differentiation is enhanced, Prdm8 expression is upregulated, and Prdm16 expression is downregulated; conversely in utero electroporation of Hes1 into the developing telencephalon upregulates Prdm16 expression.
Our data demonstrate that Prdm genes are regulated by the Notch-Hes pathway and represent strong candidates to control neural class specification and the sequential progression of mammalian CNS neurogenesis.