The nuclear matrix is defined as the insoluble framework of the nucleus and has been implicated in the regulation of gene expression, the cell cycle, and nuclear structural integrity via linkage to intermediate filaments of the cytoskeleton. We have discovered a novel nuclear matrix protein, NRP/B (nuclear restricted protein/brain), which contains two major structural elements: a BTB domain-like structure in the predicted NH2 terminus, and a "kelch motif" in the predicted COOH-terminal domain. NRP/B mRNA (5.5 kb) is predominantly expressed in human fetal and adult brain with minor expression in kidney and pancreas. During mouse embryogenesis, NRP/B mRNA expression is upregulated in the nervous system. The NRP/B protein is expressed in rat primary hippocampal neurons, but not in primary astrocytes. NRP/B expression was upregulated during the differentiation of murine Neuro 2A and human SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells. Overexpression of NRP/B in these cells augmented neuronal process formation. Treatment with antisense NRP/B oligodeoxynucleotides inhibited the neurite development of rat primary hippocampal neurons as well as the neuronal process formation during neuronal differentiation of PC-12 cells. Since the hypophosphorylated form of retinoblastoma protein (p110(RB)) is found to be associated with the nuclear matrix and overexpression of p110(RB) induces neuronal differentiation, we investigated whether NRP/B is associated with p110(RB). Both in vivo and in vitro experiments demonstrate that NRP/B can be phosphorylated and can bind to the functionally active hypophosphorylated form of the p110(RB) during neuronal differentiation of SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells induced by retinoic acid. Our studies indicate that NRP/B is a novel nuclear matrix protein, specifically expressed in primary neurons, that interacts with p110(RB) and participates in the regulation of neuronal process formation.
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