Musashi is an evolutionarily conserved family of RNA-binding proteins that is preferentially expressed in the nervous system. The first member of the Musashi family was identified in Drosophila. This protein plays an essential role in regulating the asymmetric cell division of ectodermal precursor cells known as sensory organ precursor cells through the translational regulation of target mRNA. In the CNS of Drosophila larvae, however, Musashi is expressed in proliferating neuroblasts and likely has a different function. Its probable mammalian homologue, Musashi-1, is a neural RNA-binding protein that is strongly expressed in fetal and adult neural stem cells (NSCs). Mammalian Musashi-1 augments Notch signaling through the translational repression of its target mRNA, m-Numb, thereby contributing to the self-renewal of NSCs. In addition to its functions in NSCs, the role of mammalian Musashi-1 protein in epithelial stem cells, including intestinal and mammary gland stem cells, is attracting increasing interest.
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