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Cell Growth Differ. 1999 Jul;10(7):525-36.

Expression of the microphthalmia-associated basic helix-loop-helix leucine zipper transcription factor Mi in avian neuroretina cells induces a pigmented phenotype.

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  • 1Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique EP 560, Institut Pasteur de Lille, France.


The microphthalmia gene (mi) appears to be required for pigment cell development, based on its mutation in mi mice. The mi gene encodes a basic helix-loop-helix leucine zipper transcription factor (Mi) with tissue-restricted expression. To investigate the role of mi in cell proliferation and pigmentation, we transfected neuroretina (NR) cells with a recombinant virus expressing the murine mi cDNA. The virus induced the proliferation of chicken NR cells in response to fibroblast growth factor 2, which enabled them to form colonies in soft agar. In contrast to control cultures, transfected chicken NR cells or quail NR cells became rapidly pigmented and strongly expressed the QNR-71 mRNA encoding a melanosomal protein. These results demonstrate that Mi not only acts as pigmentation inducer but is also able to modulate the response of cells to growth factors.

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