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The retinoblastoma family proteins (RBs) and E2F transcription factors are cell-autonomous regulators of cell-cycle progression, but they also impact fate choice in addition to tumor suppression. The range of mechanisms involved remains to be uncovered. Here, we show that RBs, particularly RBL2/p130, repress WNT ligands such as WNT4 and WNT8A, thereby directing ectoderm specification between neural crest to neuroepithelium. RBL2 achieves this function through cell-cycle-dependent cooperation with E2Fs and GCN5 on the regulatory regions of WNT loci, which direct neuroepithelial versus neural crest specification by temporal fluctuations of WNT/β-catenin and DLL/NOTCH signaling activity. Thus, the RB-E2F bona fide cell-autonomous axis controls cell fate decisions, and RBL2 regulates field effects via WNT ligands. This reveals a non-cell-autonomous function of RBL2-E2F in stem cell and tissue progenitor differentiation that has broader implications for cell-cycle-dependent cell fate specification in organogenesis, adult stem cells, tissue homeostasis, and tumorigenesis.

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Journal article


Cell reports

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