Gsk3β/PKA and Gli1 regulate the maintenance of neural progenitors at the midbrain-hindbrain boundary in concert with E(Spl) factor activity
Jovica Ninkovic, Christian Stigloher, Christina Lillesaar, Laure Bally-Cuif
Neuronal production in the midbrain-hindbrain domain (MH) of the vertebrate embryonic neural tube depends on a progenitor pool called the ‘intervening zone’ (IZ), located at the midbrain-hindbrain boundary. The progressive recruitment of IZ progenitors along the mediolateral (future dorsoventral) axis prefigures the earlier maturation of the MH basal plate. It also correlates with a lower sensitivity of medial versus lateral IZ progenitors to the neurogenesis inhibition process that maintains the IZ pool. This role is performed in zebrafish by the E(Spl) factors Her5 and Her11, but the molecular cascades cooperating with Her5/11, and those accounting for their reduced effect in the medial IZ, remain unknown. We demonstrate here that the kinases Gsk3β and cAMPdependent protein kinase A (PKA) are novel determinants of IZ formation and cooperate with E(Spl) activity in a dose-dependent manner. Similar to E(Spl), we show that the activity of Gsk3β/PKA is sensed differently by medial versus lateral IZ progenitors. Furthermore, we identify the transcription factor Gli1, expressed in medial IZ cells, as an antagonist of E(Spl) and Gsk3β/PKA, and demonstrate that the neurogenesis-promoting activity of Gli1 accounts for the reduced sensitivity of medial IZ progenitors to neurogenesis inhibitors and their increased propensity to differentiate. We also show that the expression and activity of Gli1 in this process are, surprisingly, independent of Hedgehog signaling. Together, our results suggest a model in which the modulation of E(Spl) and Gsk3β/PKA activities by Gli1 underlies the dynamic properties of IZ maintenance and recruitment.