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Development. 2007 May;134(9):1755-65. Epub 2007 Apr 4.

The proneural determinant MASH1 regulates forebrain Dlx1/2 expression through the I12b intergenic enhancer.

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  • 1Center for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics (CAREG Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Establishment of neuronal networks is an extremely complex process involving the interaction of a diversity of neuronal cells. During mammalian development, these highly organized networks are formed through the differentiation of multipotent neuronal progenitors into multiple neuronal cell lineages. In the developing forebrain of mammals, the combined function of the Dlx1, Dlx2, Dlx5 and Dlx6 homeobox genes is necessary for the differentiation of the GABAergic interneurons born in the ventricular and subventricular zones of the ventral telencephalon, as well as for the migration of these neurons to the hippocampus, cerebral cortex and olfactory bulbs. The 437 bp I12b enhancer sequence in the intergenic region of the Dlx1/2 bigene cluster is involved in the forebrain regulation of Dlx1/2. Using DNase I footprinting, we identified six regions of I12b potentially bound by transcription factors. Mutagenesis of each binding site affected the expression of reporter constructs in transgenic mice. However, the effects of impairing protein-DNA interactions were not uniform across the forebrain Dlx1/2 expression domains, suggesting that distinct regulatory interactions are taking place in the different populations of neuronal precursors. Analyses of protein-DNA interactions provide evidence of a direct role for MASH1 in Dlx1/2 regulation in the forebrain. DLX proteins play a crucial role in the maintenance of their own expression, as shown by transgenic and co-transfection experiments. These studies suggest that the seemingly continuous domains of Dlx gene expression in the telencephalon and diencephalon are in fact the combination of distinct cell populations within which different genetic regulatory interactions take place.

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