A Myt1 family transcription factor defines neuronal fate by repressing non-neuronal genes

Joo Lee, Caitlin A. Taylor, Kristopher M. Barnes, Ao Shen, Emerson V. Stewart, Allison Chen, Yang Kevin Xiang, Zhirong Bao, Kang Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Cellular differentiation requires both activation of target cell transcriptional programs and repression of non-target cell programs. The Myt1 family of zinc finger transcription factors contributes to fibroblast to neuron reprogramming in vitro. Here, we show that ztf-11 (Zinc-finger Transcription Factor-11), the sole Caenorhabditis elegans Myt1 homolog, is required for neurogenesis in multiple neuronal lineages from previously differentiated epithelial cells, including a neuron generated by a developmental epithelial-to-neuronal transdifferentiation event. ztf-11 is exclusively expressed in all neuronal precursors with remarkable specificity at single-cell resolution. Loss of ztf-11 leads to upregulation of non-neuronal genes and reduced neurogenesis. Ectopic expression of ztf-11 in epidermal lineages is sufficient to produce additional neurons. ZTF-11 functions together with the MuvB corepressor complex to suppress the activation of non-neuronal genes in neurons. These results dovetail with the ability of Myt1l (Myt1-like) to drive neuronal transdifferentiation in vitro in vertebrate systems. Together, we identified an evolutionarily conserved mechanism to specify neuronal cell fate by repressing non-neuronal genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Aug 6 2019


  • C. elegans
  • developmental biology
  • genetics
  • genomics
  • MuvB complex
  • Myt1
  • neurogenesis
  • neuronal differentiation
  • transcriptional repression
  • ZTF-11

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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