Regulation of stem cell transitions in the developing forebrain

How do neural stem cells go through developmental transitions to generate neurons and glia, the major functional units of the brain? We are currently focused on cellular and molecular mechanisms that guide transitions during the development of the cerebral cortex, the highest processing center of the brain. Our lab has been studying important mechanisms that regulate the proliferation of progenitors and migration of their progeny in the embryonic cerebral cortex and postnatal olfactory bulbs. We have identified the zinc finger transcription factor Specificity Protein 2 (Sp2) as a potent regulator of cell cycle progression and differentiation in both the cortex and olfactory bulbs (Liang et al., Development, 2013). Our studies employ genetic mice to conditionally ablate various Sp factors in a cell-specific manner and have yielded novel mechanisms that regulate cell cycle progression and couple it to mechanisms of cytokinesis, cell adhesion, and other exciting cell biological phenomena. The intersection of these cell biological events are critical for transition of stem cells from a proliferative mode of division (symmetric) to neurogenic differentiative (asymmetric) divisions. The lab is hard at work in determining how and to what extent Sp family members cooperate to accomplish this critical developmental transition. (Supported by NIH R01 NS089795)