There is increasing interest in the role of RNA-binding proteins during neural development. Drosophila Musashi is one of the neural RNA-binding proteins essential for neural development and required for asymmetric cell divisions in the Drosophila adult sensory organ development. Here, a novel mammalian neural RNA-binding protein, mouse Musashi-1, was identified based on the homology to Drosophila Musashi and Xenopus NRP-1. In the developing CNS, mouse-Musashi-1 protein was highly enriched in the CNS stem cell. Single-cell culture experiments indicated that mouse Musashi-1 expression is associated with neural precursor cells that are capable of generating neurons and glia. In contrast, in fully differentiated neuronal and glial cells mouse-Musashi-1 expression is lost. This expression pattern of mouse-Musashi-1 is complementary to that of another mammalian neural RNA-binding protein, Hu (a mammalian homologue of a Drosophila neuronal RNA-binding protein Elav), that is expressed in postmitotic neurons within the CNS. In vitro studies indicated that mouse-Musashi-1 possesses binding preferences on poly(G) RNA homopolymer, whereas Hu is known to preferentially bind to short A/U-rich regions in RNA. Based on their differential expression patterns and distinct preferential target RNA sequences, we believe that the mouse-Musashi-1 and Hu proteins may play distinct roles in neurogenesis, either through sequential regulatory mechanisms or differential sorting of mRNA populations during asymmetric division of neural precursor cells.
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