Cerebellar granule neuron progenitors (GNPs) originate from the upper rhombic lip (URL), a germinative niche in which developmental defects produce human diseases. T-cell factor (TCF) responsiveness and Notch dependence are hallmarks of self-renewal in neural stem cells. TCF activity, together with transcripts encoding proneural gene repressors hairy and enhancer of split (Hes/Hey), are detected in the URL; however, their functions and regulatory modes are undeciphered. Here, we established amphibian as a pertinent model for studying vertebrate URL development. The amphibian long-lived URL is TCF active, whereas the external granular layer (EGL) is non-proliferative and expresses hes4 and hes5 genes. Using functional and transcriptomic approaches, we show that TCF activity is necessary for URL emergence and maintenance. We establish that the transcription factor Barhl1 controls GNP exit from the URL, acting partly through direct TCF inhibition. Identification of Barhl1 target genes suggests that, besides TCF, Barhl1 inhibits transcription of hes5 genes independently of Notch signaling. Observations in amniotes suggest a conserved role for Barhl in maintenance of the URL and/or EGL via co-regulation of TCF, Hes and Hey genes.

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