Distinct patterns of downstream target activation are specified by the helix-loop-helix domain of proneural basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors
Talikka, M.; Perez, S.E.; Zimmerman, K.
Developmental Biology 247(1): 137-148
ISSN/ISBN: 0012-1606 PMID: 12074558 DOI: 10.1006/dbio.2002.0677
Both gain- and loss-of-function analyses indicate that proneural basic/helix-loop-helix (bHLH) proteins direct not only general aspects of neuronal differentiation but also specific aspects of neuronal identity within neural progenitors. In order to better understand the function of this family of transcription factors, we have used hormone-inducible fusion constructs to assay temporal patterns of downstream target regulation in response to proneural bHLH overexpression. In these studies, we have compared two distantly related Xenopus proneural bHLH genes, Xash1 and XNgnr1. Our findings indicate that both Xash1 and XNgnr1 induce expression of the general neuronal differentiation marker, N-tubulin, with a similar time course in animal cap progenitor populations. In contrast, these genes each induce distinct patterns of early downstream target expression. Both genes induce expression of the HLH-containing gene, Xcoe2, at early time points, but only XNgnr1 induces early expression of the bHLH genes, Xath3 and XNeuroD. Structure:function analyses indicate that the distinct pattern of XNgnr1-induced downstream target activation is linked to the XNgnr1 HLH domain, demonstrating a novel role for this domain in mediating the differential function of individual members of the proneural bHLH gene family.