Chung, P.C., Lin, W.S., Scotting, P.J., Hsieh, F.Y., Wu, H.L., and Cheng, Y.C. (2011) Zebrafish her8a is activated by Su(H)-dependent Notch signaling and is essential for the inhibition of neurogenesis. PLoS One. 6(4):e19394.
Understanding how diversity of neural cells is generated is one of the main tasks of developmental biology. The Hairy/E(spl) family members are potential targets of Notch signaling, which has been shown to be fundamental to neural cell maintenance, cell fate decisions, and compartment boundary formation. However, their response to Notch signaling and their roles in neurogenesis are still not fully understood. In the present study, we isolated a zebrafish homologue of hairy/E(spl), her8a, and showed this gene is specifically expressed in the developing nervous system. her8a is positively regulated by Su(H)-dependent Notch signaling as revealed by a Notch-defective mutant and injection of variants of the Notch intracellular regulator, Su(H). Morpholino knockdown of Her8a resulted in upregulation of proneural and post-mitotic neuronal markers, indicating that Her8a is essential for the inhibition of neurogenesis. In addition, markers for glial precursors and mature glial cells were down-regulated in Her8a morphants, suggesting Her8a is required for gliogenesis. The role of Her8a and its response to Notch signaling is thus similar to mammalian HES1, however this is the converse of what is seen for the more closely related mammalian family member, HES6. This study not only provides further understanding of how the fundamental signaling pathway, Notch signaling, and its downstream genes mediate neural development and differentiation, but also reveals evolutionary diversity in the role of H/E(spl) genes.