In the olfactory epithelium (OE), generation of new neurons by neuronal progenitors is inhibited by a signal from neurons themselves. Here we provide evidence that this feedback inhibitory signal is growth and differentiation factor 11 (GDF11). Both GDF11 and its receptors are expressed by OE neurons and progenitors, and GDF11 inhibits OE neurogenesis in vitro by inducing p27(Kip1) and reversible cell cycle arrest in progenitors. Mice lacking functional GDF11 have more progenitors and neurons in the OE, whereas mice lacking follistatin, a GDF11 antagonist, show dramatically decreased neurogenesis. This negative autoregulatory action of GDF11 is strikingly like that of its homolog, GDF8/myostatin, in skeletal muscle, suggesting that similar strategies establish and maintain proper cell number during neural and muscular development.
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