Nagao M, Ogata T, Sawada Y, Gotoh Y
Multipotent neural precursor cells (NPCs) generate astrocytes at late stages of mammalian neocortical development. Many signalling pathways that regulate astrocytogenesis directly induce the expression of GFAP, a marker of terminally differentiated astrocytes. However, astrocyte specification occurs before GFAP expression and essential factors for the specification step have remained elusive. Here we show that Zbtb20 regulates astrocyte specification in the mouse neocortex. Zbtb20 is highly expressed in late-stage NPCs and their astrocytic progeny. Overexpression and knockdown of Zbtb20 promote and suppress astrocytogenesis, respectively, although Zbtb20 does not directly activate the Gfap promoter. Astrocyte induction by Zbtb20 is suppressed by knockdown of Sox9 or NFIA. Furthermore, in the astrocyte lineage, Zbtb20 directly represses the expression of Brn2, which encodes a protein necessary for upper-layer neuron specification. Zbtb20 is thus a key determinant of astrocytogenesis, in which it collaborates with Sox9 and NFIA, and acts in part through direct repression of Brn2 expression.