Chiou-Fen Chuang Lab Paper Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Graduate students Amel Alqadah, Rui Xiong, Research Assistant Professor Yi-Wen Hsieh, and Professor Chiou-Fen Chuang’s research article, "A universal transportin protein drives stochastic choice of olfactory neurons via specific nuclear import of a sox-2-activating factor", was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on November 25, 2019. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/11/22/1908168116
Stochastic cell fate decisions are conserved but only partly understood processes. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the AWC sensory neuron pair communicates to generate asymmetric subtypes with distinct functions in a stochastic manner, making it an ideal system to identify novel mechanisms controlling stochastic cell fate specification. In this paper, Alqadah et al. elucidate a mechanism by which Transportin 1 controls stochastic olfactory neuron identities via nuclear import of a homeodomain factor for transactivation of the HMG-box transcription factor SOX-2. This report sets a precedent by mechanistically implicating a widely expressed transportin in a specific neuronal function of a model organism because of the availability of one of the first viable transportin mutant alleles that the authors recover from an unbiased forward genetic screen. These findings also provide structure-function insight into a conserved amino acid residue of transportins in brain development and suggest its mutation may lead to human neurological disorders. Since transportins, homeodomain factors, and SOX-2 are conserved throughout the animal kingdom, this study may have broad implications for various types of development in a range of organisms.