HuD is a neuronal RNA-binding protein that plays an important role in neuronal differentiation of the nervous system. HuD has been reported to have three RNA recognition motifs (RRMs) and three splice variants (SVs) that differ in their amino acid sequences between RRM2 and RRM3. This study investigates whether these SVs have specific roles in neuronal differentiation. In primary neural epithelial cells under differentiating conditions, HuD splice variant 1 (HuD-sv1), which is a general form, and HuD-sv2 were expressed at all tested times, whereas HuD-sv4 was transiently expressed at the beginning of differentiation, indicating that HuD-sv4 might play a role compared different from that of HuD-sv1. Indeed, HuD-sv4 did not promote neuronal differentiation in epithelial cells, whereas HuD-sv1 did promote neuronal differentiation. HuD-sv4 overexpression showed less neurite-inducing activity than HuD-sv1 in mouse neuroblastoma N1E-115 cells; however, HuD-sv4 showed stronger growth-arresting activity. HuD-sv1 was localized only in the cytoplasm, whereas HuD-sv4 was localized in both the cytoplasm and the nuclei. The Hu protein has been reported to be involved in translation and alternative splicing in the cytoplasm and nuclei, respectively. Consistent with this observation, HuD-sv1 showed translational activity on p21, which plays a role in growth arrest and neuronal differentiation, whereas HuD-sv4 did not. By contrast, HuD-sv4 showed stronger pre-mRNA splicing activity than did HuD-sv1 on Clasp2, which participates in cell division. Therefore, HuD SVs might play a role in controlling the timing of proliferation/differentiation switching by controlling the translation and alternative splicing of target genes.
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