Developmental biology

N-twist, an evolutionarily conserved bHLH protein expressed in the developing CNS, functions as a transcriptional inhibitor.

PMID 12217327


Members of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor family play an essential role in multiple developmental processes. During neurogenesis, positive and negative regulation by bHLH proteins is essential for proper development. Here we report the identification and initial characterization of the bHLH gene, Neuronal twist (N-twist), named for its neural expression pattern and high sequence homology and physical linkage to the mesodermal inhibitor, M-twist. N-twist is expressed in the developing mouse central nervous system in the midbrain, hindbrain, and neural tube. This neural expression is conserved in invertebrates, as expression of the Drosophila ortholog of N-twist is also restricted to the central nervous system. Like other bHLH family members, N-Twist heterodimerizes with E protein and binds DNA at a consensus bHLH-binding site, the E box. We show that N-Twist inhibits MASH1-dependent transcriptional activation by sequestering E protein in a dominant negative fashion. Thus, these studies support the notion that N-Twist represents a novel negative regulator of neurogenesis.

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