Theses Doctoral

The Role of Kinesins in Cell Fate Determination During Neurogenesis

Helmer, Paige

The mammalian brain is a complex organ, the result of a very specific and regulated differentiation process. Although there are many different cell types in the mammalian brain, neurons make up the bulk of the tissue. Neurons come from the divisions of radial glial progenitors (RGPs), which are columnar stem cells in the developing brain. These cells undergo two types of division: symmetric or asymmetric. Symmetric divisions expand the stem cell population, resulting in two new RGPs. Symmetric divisions are critical for ensuring the stem cell population is not depleted too quickly in development.

Asymmetric divisions are neurogenic, producing one RGP and one cell that will either differentiate into one neuron, or an intermediate progenitor (IP) that will divide again and produce two to four neurons (Shitamukai, Konno, and Matsuzaki 2011). Several factors have been linked to this determination, including mitotic spindle orientation, centrosomal inheritance, and exposure to proliferative factors, like sonic hedgehog and Notch (Chenn and McConnell 1995; Gaiano and Fishell 2002; Han 2016). This work will focus on spindle orientation, which has been linked to cell fate in many contexts (Lancaster and Knoblich 2012; Williams and Fuchs 2013; Chenn and McConnell 1995). Spindle orientationmust be tightly controlled in order to expand the RGP cell population in early development, then, with more randomized spindles, to shift to producing neural precursors during cortical expansion (Götz and Huttner 2005). While the exact mechanism is still unknown, the orientation of the mitotic spindle relative to the ventricular surface at the time of division affects what type of division occurs (Lancaster and Knoblich 2012).

A related process in RGP neural production is interkinetic nuclear migration (INM), in which the RGP nucleus travels apically and basally in a cell-cycle dependent manner (Noctor et al. 2001; Sauer 1935; Hu et al. 2013). The RGP only divides when the nucleus reaches the apical surface; why this occurs is still not known. INM ensures that only a small population of RGPs is dividing in a controlled manner, allowing for cells to interpret polarity cues and orientthe spindle while dividing. One protein that is important to multiple processes in neuronal development is Kif1A. Kif1A is a kinesin motor that has been shown to be critical for INM, in particular for transporting the nucleus basally after division. When Kif1A expression is reduced using shRNA, RGPs fail to migrate away from the ventricular surface, but continue to go through the cell cycle at a normal rate (Carabalona, Hu, and Vallee 2016). Additionally, RGPs that lack Kif1A also exhibit more horizontal and symmetric divisions. This indicates that Kif1a is involved in asymmetric, oblique divisions that produce neurons. Thus, without Kif1a, RGPs produce fewer neurons, instead expanding the RGP cell population.

Another kinesin that may be involved in spindle orientation is Kif13B. Kif13B is in the same kinesin-3 subfamily as Kif1A. While structurally very similar to Kif1A, it does have distinct features. It contains a CAP-gly domain, used for binding to the plus end of microtubules. This domain is absent from other kinesin-3 family members, including the most closely related,Kif13A. Kif13B has been shown to be critical for spindle orientation in polarized Drosophila S2 cells, as well as in neuroblasts (Carabalona, Hu, and Vallee 2016; Siegrist and Doe 2005). Kif13B functions to anchor the mitotic spindle to other factors at the cell cortex during mitosis. This occurs through direct interaction with Discs large (Dlg1), which then connects to other factors at the cell membrane, including G?i, LGN, and NuMA. This is a critical process to ensure daughter cells are properly specified. Many of these factors, including LGN and NuMA have been identified as important spindle regulators in RGP divisions as well. Kif13B binds to Dlg1 and to 14-3-3 ?, which is bound to 14-3-3 ?, bound to NudE and Dynein, connecting the Kif13B to Dynein (Lu and Prehoda 2013). Kif13B, as a kinesin, moves along microtubules towards the plus end. Dynein moves in the opposite direction, towards the minus end. The connection of two opposing motors moving in opposite directions may serve to put tension on the spindle and prevent it from freely moving within the cell. When Kif13B is knocked down or removed in cells, the spindle orients randomly in the cell, not in line with LGN or NuMA at the cell cortex (Siegrist and Doe 2005; Lu and Prehoda 2013). This indicates that in mammalian systems, it likely is important for maintaining orientation, and its loss in RGPs would result in random orientation as well. This would result in more neurogenic divisions in RGPs, which is the opposite of the effect seen with Kif1a shRNA.

By using in utero electroporation of embryonic rat brains as well as a mouse model ofKif13b knockout in RGPs, I have shown that Kif13B and Kif1A have opposing roles in neurogenesis. This difference can be traced to an alteration of IP production, which Kif1A shRNA decreases, and Kif13b shRNA increases. This can be further traced to the opposing effects on spindle orientation of dividing RGPs. Kif1a shRNA results in more horizontal spindle angles while Kif13b shRNA or deletion results in more random spindle angles. While the kinesin-3 family members are very similar in structure, there are key differences between them. Kif1A has a cargo binding domain at its C terminus, the pleckstrin homology (PH) domain. Kif13B contains a CAP-gly domain. This difference in tail domains would presumably allow Kif13B to bind to microtubule plus ends, while Kif1A would dissociate from the spindle. This difference, therefore, could explain why these two very similar kinesins appear to be performing the opposite roles in spindle orientation. This work provides evidence for a novel mechanism of regulation of neuron production in the mammalian cortex.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biological Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Vallee, Richard
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 25, 2023