Interaction of Regulatory Factor X (RFX) factors and the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in neuronal differentiation and ciliogenesis in embryonic an

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Faculty of Health Sciences


Glucocorticoid hormones play very important functional roles in the body. They regulate metabolism, the immune system
as well as many brain functions to maintain health and wellbeing. Dysregulation of glucocorticoid hormone function is
known to enhance vulnerability for developing mental health disorders like major depression, anxiety and post-traumatic
stress disorder. Presently, however, the molecular underpinnings of these glucocorticoid effects on the brain have still not
been clarified. The brain structure mostly investigated is the hippocampus because of its role in stress coping and learning
and memory processes.
Glucocorticoid hormones act on the hippocampus through interaction with two intracellular receptors, the
mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), which act like ligand-dependent transcription
factors. Recently, we conducted so-called chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis on the hippocampus to identify,
for the first time, the genes with which MR and GR interact under baseline and stress conditions (see Mifsud & Reul (2016)
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 113:11336-41; Mifsud et al. (2021) Nature Communications 12: 4737). Amongst many findings,
we discovered that, the MR in particular, is involved in neuronal differentiation and cilia function. Cilia are hair-like
protrusions from cells, including neurons, that play critical roles in sensory and developmental processes. Both neuronal
differentiation and ciliogenesis are part of the adult neurogenesis process taking place in the dentate gyrus, a highly plastic
region of the hippocampus. Indeed, MR is thought to play a role in the neuronal differentiation phase of dentate
neurogenesis but exactly how is presently unknown. We were able to confirm that MR is critical for neuronal
differentiation and ciliogenesis in human foetal neuronal progenitor cells (hfNPCs; Mifsud et al., 2021). We also discovered
that, most likely at the genome, MR interacts with so called Regulatory Factor X (RFX) factors, which are critical for
ciliogenesis. These novel findings provide a solid rationale and basis for the in-depth investigation of the connection
between MR and RFX factors in relation to neuronal differentiation and ciliogenesis as part of the embryonic and adult
neurogenesis process.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/T008741/1 30/09/2020 29/09/2028
2732436 Studentship BB/T008741/1 30/09/2022 29/09/2026 Carolina Gaudenzi