Cortical aPKC kinase activity distinguishes neural stem cells from progenitor cells by ensuring asymmetric segregation of Numb

Jill M. Haenfler, Chaoyuan Kuang, Cheng Yu Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


During asymmetric stem cell division, polarization of the cell cortex targets fate determinants unequally into the sibling daughters, leading to regeneration of a stem cell and production of a progenitor cell with restricted developmental potential. In mitotic neural stem cells (neuroblasts) in fly larval brains, the antagonistic interaction between the polarity proteins Lethal (2) giant larvae (Lgl) and atypical Protein Kinase C (aPKC) ensures self-renewal of a daughter neuroblast and generation of a progenitor cell by regulating asymmetric segregation of fate determinants. In the absence of lgl function, elevated cortical aPKC kinase activity perturbs unequal partitioning of the fate determinants including Numb and induces supernumerary neuroblasts in larval brains. However, whether increased aPKC function triggers formation of excess neuroblasts by inactivating Numb remains controversial. To investigate how increased cortical aPKC function induces formation of excess neuroblasts, we analyzed the fate of cells in neuroblast lineage clones in lgl mutant brains. Surprisingly, our analyses revealed that neuroblasts in lgl mutant brains undergo asymmetric division to produce progenitor cells, which then revert back into neuroblasts. In lgl mutant brains, Numb remained localized in the cortex of mitotic neuroblasts and failed to segregate exclusively into the progenitor cell following completion of asymmetric division. These results led us to propose that elevated aPKC function in the cortex of mitotic neuroblasts reduces the function of Numb in the future progenitor cells. We identified that the acyl-CoA binding domain containing 3 protein (ACBD3) binding region is essential for asymmetric segregation of Numb in mitotic neuroblasts and suppression of the supernumerary neuroblast phenotype induced by increased aPKC function. The ACBD3 binding region of Numb harbors two aPKC phosphorylation sites, serines 48 and 52. Surprisingly, while the phosphorylation status at these two sites directly impinged on asymmetric segregation of Numb in mitotic neuroblasts, both the phosphomimetic and non-phosphorylatable forms of Numb suppressed formation of excess neuroblasts triggered by increased cortical aPKC function. Thus, we propose that precise regulation of cortical aPKC kinase activity distinguishes the sibling cell identity in part by ensuring asymmetric partitioning of Numb into the future progenitor cell where Numb maintains restricted potential independently of regulation by aPKC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-228
Number of pages10
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Asymmetric division
  • Cell polarity
  • Intermediate neural progenitor
  • Lethal (2) giant larvae
  • Neuroblast
  • Numb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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