Nucleolar release of Hand1 acts as a molecular switch to determine cell fate

David M J Martindill, Catherine A Risebro, Nicola Smart, Maria Del Mar Franco-Viseras, Carla O Rosario, Carol J Swallow, James W Dennis, Paul R Riley
Nature Cell Biology 2007, 9 (10): 1131-41
The bHLH transcription factor Hand1 is essential for placentation and cardiac morphogenesis in the developing embryo. Here we implicate Hand1 as a molecular switch that determines whether a trophoblast stem cell continues to proliferate or commits to differentiation. We identify a novel interaction of Hand1 with a protein that contains an I-mfa (inhibitor of myogenic factor) domain that anchors Hand1 in the nucleolus where it negatively regulates Hand1 activity. In the trophoblast stem-cell line Rcho-1, nucleolar sequestration of Hand1 accompanies sustained cell proliferation and renewal, whereas release of Hand1 into the nucleus leads to its activation, thus committing cells to a differentiated giant-cell fate. Site-specific phosphorylation is required for nucleolar release of Hand1, for its dimerization and biological function, and this is mediated by the non-canonical polo-like kinase Plk4 (Sak). Sak is co-expressed in Rcho-1 cells, localizes to the nucleolus during G2 and phosphorylates Hand1 as a requirement for trophoblast stem-cell commitment to a giant-cell fate. This study defines a novel cellular mechanism for regulating Hand1 that is a crucial step in the stem-cell differentiation pathway.

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