Studies revealing molecular mechanisms underlying neural specification have majorly focused on the role played by different transcription factors, but less on non-nuclear components. Earlier, we reported mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (SOD2) to be essential for self-renewal and pluripotency of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs). In the present study, we found SOD2 to be specifically required for neural lineage, but not the meso- or endoderm specification. Temporally, SOD2 regulated early neural genes, but not the matured genes, by modulating mitochondrial dynamics—specifically by enhancing the mitochondrial fusion protein Mitofusin 2 (MFN2). Bio-complementation strategy further confirmed SOD2 to enhance mitochondrial fusion process independent of its antioxidant activity. Over-expression of SOD2 along with OCT4, but neither alone, transdifferentiated mouse fibroblasts to neural progenitor-like colonies, conclusively proving the neurogenic potential of SOD2. In conclusion, our findings accredit a novel role for SOD2 in early neural lineage specification.
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