Von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) functions to induce neuronal differentiation of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSCs) and skin-derived precursors (SKPs). Here we identified a neuronal differentiation domain (NDD) in pVHL. Neuronal differentiation of SKPs was induced by intracellular delivery of a peptide composed of the amino-acid sequences encoded by the NDD. Neuronal differentiation mediated by the NDD was caused by the binding between it and elongin C followed by Janus kinase-2 (JAK2) ubiquitination of JAK2 and inhibition of the JAK2/the signal transducer and activator of transcription-3(STAT)3 pathway. The NDD in pVHL contained the BC-box motif ((A,P,S,T)LXXX (A,C) XXX(A,I,L,V)) corresponding to the binding site of elongin C. Therefore, we proposed that other BC-box proteins might also contain an NDD; and subsequently also identified in them an NDD containing the amino-acid sequence encoded by the BC-box motif in BC-box proteins. Furthermore, we showed that different NDD peptide-delivered cells differentiated into different kinds of neuron-like cells. That is, dopaminergic neuron-like cells, cholinergic neuron-like cells, GABAnergic neuron-like cells or rhodopsin-positive neuron-like cells were induced by different NDD peptides. These novel findings might contribute to the development of a new method for promoting neuronal differentiation and shed further light on the mechanism of neuronal differentiation of somatic stem cells.
Keywords: BC-box motif; BC-box protein; neuronal differentiation; skin-derived precursors.