In the neural progenitors of the developing central nervous system (CNS), cell proliferation is tightly controlled and coordinated with cell fate decisions. Progenitors divide rapidly during early development and their cell cycle lengthens progressively as development advances to eventually give rise to a tissue of the correct size and cellular composition. However, our understanding of the molecules linking cell cycle progression to developmental time is incomplete. Here, we show that the microRNA (miRNA) let-7 accumulates in neural progenitors over time throughout the developing CNS. Intriguingly, we find that the level and activity of let-7 oscillate as neural progenitors progress through the cell cycle by in situ hybridization and fluorescent miRNA sensor analyses. We also show that let-7 mediates cell cycle dynamics: increasing the level of let-7 promotes cell cycle exit and lengthens the S/G2 phase of the cell cycle, while let-7 knock down shortens the cell cycle in neural progenitors. Together, our findings suggest that let-7 may link cell proliferation to developmental time and regulate the progressive cell cycle lengthening that occurs during development.
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