A novel Oct4/Pou5f1-like non-coding RNA controls neural maturation and mediates developmental effects of ethanol.
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Prenatal ethanol exposure can result in loss of neural stem cells (NSCs) and decreased brain growth. Here, we assessed whether a noncoding RNA (ncRNA) related to the NSC self-renewal factor Oct4/Pou5f1, and transcribed from a processed pseudogene locus on mouse chromosome 9 (mOct4pg9), contributed to the loss of NSCs due to ethanol. Mouse fetal cortical-derived NSCs, cultured ex vivo to mimic the early neurogenic environment of the fetal telencephalon, expressed mOct4pg9 ncRNA at significantly higher levels than the parent Oct4/Pou5f1 mRNA. Ethanol exposure increased expression of mOct4pg9 ncRNA, but decreased expression of Oct4/Pou5f1. Gain- and loss-of-function analyses indicated that mOct4pg9 overexpression generally mimicked effects of ethanol exposure, resulting in increased proliferation and expression of transcripts associated with neural maturation. Moreover, mOct4pg9 associated with Ago2 and with miRNAs, including the anti-proliferative miR-328-3p, whose levels were reduced following mOct4pg9 overexpression. Finally, mOct4pg9 inhibited Oct4/Pou5f1-3'UTR-dependent protein translation. Consistent with these observations, data from single-cell transcriptome analysis showed that mOct4pg9-expressing progenitors lack Oct4/Pou5f1, but instead overexpress transcripts for increased mitosis, suggesting initiation of transit amplification. Collectively, these data suggest that the inhibitory effects of ethanol on brain development are explained, in part, by a novel ncRNA which promotes loss of NSC identity and maturation.