During mammalian central nervous system development, neural stem cells differentiate and then mature into various types of neurons. Myelin transcription factor (Myt)/neural zinc finger (NZF) family proteins were first identified as myelin proteolipid protein promoter binding factors and were shown to be involved in oligodendrocyte development. In this study, we found that Myt/NZF family molecules were expressed during neuronal differentiation in vivo and in vitro. Transient over-expression of Myt/NZF family genes could convert undifferentiated P19 cells into neurons without induction by retinoic acid (RA), and the ability of these genes to induce neuronal differentiation was comparable to that of Neurog1 and Neurod1. Additionally, we found that St18 (or NZF-3) was induced by several bHLH transcription factors. When NZF-3 and Neurog1 were co-expressed in P19 cells, the rate of neuronal differentiation was significantly increased. These data suggest not only that NZF-3 works downstream of Neurog1 but also that it plays a crucial role together with Neurog1 in neuronal differentiation.
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