The N terminus of Ascl1 underlies differing proneural activity of mouse and Xenopus Ascl1 proteins.
The proneural basic-helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor Ascl1 is a master regulator of neurogenesis in both central and peripheral nervous systems in vivo, and is a central driver of neuronal reprogramming in vitro. Over the last three decades, assaying primary neuron formation in Xenopus embryos in response to transcription factor overexpression has contributed to our understanding of the roles and regulation of proneural proteins like Ascl1, with homologues from different species usually exhibiting similar functional effects. Here we demonstrate that the mouse Ascl1 protein is twice as active as the Xenopus protein in inducing neural-β-tubulin expression in Xenopus embryos, despite there being little difference in protein accumulation or ability to undergo phosphorylation, two properties known to influence Ascl1 function. This superior activity of the mouse compared to the Xenopus protein is dependent on the presence of the non-conserved N terminal region of the protein, and indicates species-specific regulation that may necessitate care when interpreting results in cross-species experiments.
Medical Research Council (MR/K018329/1)
Wellcome Trust (203151/Z/16/Z)