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Cancer Res. 2000 Mar 1;60(5):1376-82.

Class A helix-loop-helix proteins are positive regulators of several cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors' promoter activity and negatively affect cell growth.

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Department of Genetics, Molecular and General Biology, University of Naples Federico II, Italy.


The class A of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) proteins are ubiquitously expressed transcription factors playing a pivotal role in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation. We determined that enforced expression of all four different mammalian members of this family, E12, E47, E2-2, and HEB, suppresses the cell colony-forming efficiency of several cell lines. To gain insights into the mechanisms by which class A bHLH factors affect cell growth, we have investigated their role in the transcriptional regulation of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors. We found that p21CIP1/ WAF1, p15INK4B, and p16INK4B promoter sequences contain E-boxes that render these genes competent for class A bHLH-mediated transcriptional activation and Id-mediated repression. The mechanism underlying the class A bHLH-mediated inhibition of cell growth does not involve an arrest of G1 progression in 293T cells. In fact, contrary to what has been found in 3T3 NIH fibroblasts, we found that enhanced expression of class A bHLH proteins led to a decreased proliferation rate by promoting cell death associated with the induction of apoptosis. These findings highlight the role of the class A bHLH proteins as general negative regulators of cell proliferation through a mechanism(s) that involves both enhancement of several cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor genes expression and promotion of cell death.

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