Neural basic helix-loop helix (bHLH) transcription factors promote progenitor cell differentiation by activation of downstream target genes that coordinate neuronal differentiation. Here we characterize a neural bHLH target gene in Xenopus laevis, vexin (vxn; previously sbt1), that is homologous to human c8orf46 and is conserved across vertebrate species. C8orf46 has been implicated in cancer progression, but its function is unknown. Vxn is transiently expressed in differentiating progenitors in the developing central nervous system (CNS), and is required for neurogenesis in the neural plate and retina. Its function is conserved, since overexpression of either Xenopus or mouse vxn expands primary neurogenesis and promotes early retinal cell differentiation in cooperation with neural bHLH factors. Vxn protein is localized to the cell membrane and the nucleus, but functions in the nucleus to promote neural differentiation. Vxn inhibits cell proliferation, and works with the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27Xic1 (cdkn1b) to enhance neurogenesis and increase levels of the proneural protein Neurog2. We propose that vxn provides a key link between neural bHLH activity and execution of the neurogenic program.
Moore, K. B., Logan, M. A., Aldiri, I., Roberts, J. M., Steele, M., & Vetter, M. L. (2018). C8orf46 homolog encodes a novel protein Vexin that is required for neurogenesis in Xenopus laevis. Developmental Biology, 437(1), 27–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2018.03.003