How self-renewal versus differentiation of neural progenitor cells is temporally controlled during early development remains ill-defined. We show that mouse Lin41 (mLin41) is highly expressed in neural progenitor cells and its expression declines during neural differentiation. Loss of mLin41 function in mice causes reduced proliferation and premature differentiation of embryonic neural progenitor cells. mLin41 was recently implicated as the E3 ubiquitin ligase that mediates degradation of Argonaute 2 (AGO2), a key effector of the microRNA pathway. However, our mechanistic studies of neural progenitor cells indicate mLin41 is not required for AGO2 ubiquitination or stability. Instead, mLin41-deficient neural progenitors exhibit hyposensitivity for fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling. We show that mLin41 promotes FGF signaling by directly binding to and enhancing the stability of Shc SH2-binding protein 1 (SHCBP1) and that SHCBP1 is an important component of FGF signaling in neural progenitor cells. Thus, mLin41 acts as a temporal regulator to promote neural progenitor cell maintenance, not via the regulation of AGO2 stability, but through FGF signaling.
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