In early vertebrate embryos, the dorsal ectoderm is induced by the axial mesendoderm to form the neural plate, which is given competence to form neural cells by soxB1 genes. Subsequently, neurogenesis proceeds in proneural clusters that are generated by a gene network involving proneural genes and Notch signaling. However, what occurs between early neural induction and the later initiation of neurogenesis has not been fully revealed. In the present study, we demonstrated that during gastrulation, the expression of the Oct4-related PouV gene pou5f3 (also called pou2), which is widely observed at earlier stages, was rapidly localized to an array of isolated spotted domains, each of which coincided with individual proneural clusters. Two-color in situ hybridization confirmed that each pou5f3-expressing domain included a proneural cluster. Further analysis demonstrated that anterior pou5f3 domains straddled the boundaries between rhombomere 1 (r1) and r2, whereas posterior domains were included in r4. The effects of forced expression of an inducible negative dominant-interfering pou5f3 gene suggested that pou5f3 activated early proneural genes, such as neurog1 and ebf2, and also soxB1, but repressed the late proneural genes atoh1a and ascl1b. Furthermore, pou5f3 was considered to repress her4.1, a Notch-dependent Hairy/E(spl) gene involved in lateral inhibition in proneural clusters. These results suggest that pou5f3 promotes early neurogenesis in proneural clusters, but negatively regulates later neurogenesis. Suppression of pou5f3 also altered the expression of other her genes, including her3, her5, and her9, further supporting a role for pou5f3 in neurogenesis. In vitro reporter assays in P19 cells showed that pou5f3 was repressed by neurog1, but activated by Notch signaling. These findings together demonstrate the importance of the pou5f3-mediated gene regulatory network in neural development in vertebrate embryos.
Keywords: Midbrain-hindbrain boundary; Neurogenesis; Oct4; Zebrafish; pou5f3; soxB1.
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