Thalidomide is a teratogen that causes multiple malformations in the developing baby through its interaction with cereblon (CRBN), a substrate receptor subunit of the CRL4 E3 ubiquitin ligase complex. CRBN was originally reported as a gene associated with autosomal recessive non-syndromic mild mental retardation. However, the function of CRBN during brain development remains largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that CRBN promotes brain development by facilitating the proliferation of neural stem cells (NSCs). Knockdown of CRBN in zebrafish embryos impaired brain development and led to small brains, as did treatment with thalidomide. By contrast, overexpression of CRBN resulted in enlarged brains, leading to the expansion of NSC regions and increased cell proliferation in the early brain field and an expanded expression of brain region-specific genes and neural and glial marker genes. These results demonstrate that CRBN functions in the determination of brain size by regulating the proliferation of NSCs during development.
Keywords: Cellular Neuroscience; Developmental Neuroscience; Molecular Neuroscience.
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