Neuronal differentiation of neural precursor cells is promoted by the methyl-CpG-binding protein MeCP2

Keita Tsujimura, Masahiko Abematsu, Jun Kohyama, Masakazu Namihira, Kinichi Nakashima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2), a methyl-CpG-binding domain protein family member which is expressed predominantly in neurons in the nervous system, acts as a transcriptional repressor by binding to methylated genes, and mutations in mecp2 cause the neurological disorder known as Rett syndrome (RTT). Although MeCP2 has been reported to regulate neuronal maturation rather than fate specification of neural precursor cells (NPCs), we have previously shown that it inhibits astrocyte differentiation of NPCs when ectopically expressed. Here, we show that expression of MeCP2 in NPCs not only suppresses astrocytic differentiation but actually promotes neuronal differentiation, even in the presence of well-known astrocyte-inducing cytokines. This dual function of MeCP2 was abolished by the MEK inhibitor U0126. Moreover, we observed that a truncated form of MeCP2 found in RTT patients fails to promote neuronal differentiation. We further demonstrate that transplanted MeCP2-expressing NPCs differentiate in vivo into neurons in two non-neurogenic regions, striatum and spinal cord. These results suggest a possible therapeutic application for MeCP2 in neurodegenerative diseases and injuries to the central nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-111
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Sept
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytokine
  • Differentiation
  • Epigenetics
  • MeCP2
  • Neural stem cells
  • Rett syndrome
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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