Canonical Notch signaling has diverse functions during nervous system development and is critical for neural progenitor self-renewal, timing of differentiation and specification of various cell fates. A key feature of Notch-mediated self-renewal is its fluctuating activity within the neural progenitor cell population and the oscillatory expression pattern of the Notch effector Hes1 and its target genes. A negative feedback loop between Hes1 and neurogenic microRNA miR-9 was found to be part of this oscillatory clock. In a recent study we discovered that miR-9 expression is further modulated by direct binding of the Notch intracellular domain/RBPj transcriptional complex to the miR-9_2 promoter. In turn, miR-9 not only targets Hes1 but also Notch2 to attenuate Notch signaling and promote neuronal differentiation. Here, we discuss how the two interwoven feedback loops may provide an additional fail-save mechanism to control proliferation and differentiation within the neural progenitor cell population. Furthermore, we explore potential implications of miR-9-mediated regulation of Notch/Hes1 signaling with regard to neural progenitor homeostasis, patterning, timing of differentiation and tumor formation.
Keywords: Notch; differentiation; hes; miR-9; neural stem cells; oscillation; proliferation.