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Nucleic Acids Res. 2011 Mar;39(4):1177-86. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq890. Epub 2010 Oct 8.

Redundant or separate entities?--roles of Twist1 and Twist2 as molecular switches during gene transcription.

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  • 1Human Molecular Genetics Lab, Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, PO Box 365067, San Juan, PR 00936, USA.


Twist1 and Twist2 are highly conserved members of the Twist subfamily of bHLH proteins responsible for the transcriptional regulation of the developmental programs in mesenchymal cell lineages. The regulation of such processes requires that Twist1 and Twist2 function as molecular switches to activate and repress target genes by employing several direct and indirect mechanisms. Modes of action by these proteins include direct DNA binding to conserved E-box sequences and recruitment of coactivators or repressors, sequestration of E-protein modulators, and interruption of proper activator/repressor function through protein-protein interactions. Regulatory outcomes of Twist1 and Twist2 are themselves controlled by spatial-temporal expression, phosphoregulation, dimer choice and cellular localization. Although these two proteins are highly conserved and exhibit similar functions in vitro, emerging literature have demonstrated different roles in vivo. The involvement of Twist1 and Twist2 in a broad spectrum of regulatory pathways highlights the importance of understanding their roles in normal development, homeostasis and disease. Here we focus on the mechanistic models of transcriptional regulation and summarize the similarities and differences between Twist1 and Twist2 in the context of myogenesis, osteogenesis, immune system development and cancer.

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