Hepatoma-derived growth factor-related proteins (HRP) comprise a family of 6 members, which the biological functions are still largely unclear. Here we show that during embryogenesis HRP-3 is strongly expressed in the developing nervous system. At early stages of development HRP-3 is located in the cytoplasm and neurites of cortical neurons. Upon maturation HRP-3 relocalizes continuously to the nuclei and in the majority of neurons of adult mice it is located exclusively in the nucleus. This redistribution from neurites to nuclei is also found in embryonic cortical neurons maturing in cell culture. We show that HRP-3 is necessary for proper neurite outgrowth in primary cortical neurons. To identify possible mechanisms of how HRP-3 modulate neuritogenesis we isolated HRP-3 interaction partners and demonstrate that it binds tubulin through the N-terminal so called HATH region, which is strongly conserved among members of the HRP family. It promotes tubulin polymerization, stabilizes and bundles microtubules. This activity depends on the extranuclear localization of HRP-3. HRP-3 thus could play an important role during neuronal development by its modulation of the neuronal cytoskeleton
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