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Mol Cell Biol. 1992 Mar;12(3):1031-42.

HEB, a helix-loop-helix protein related to E2A and ITF2 that can modulate the DNA-binding ability of myogenic regulatory factors.

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Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.


Proteins containing the basic-helix-loop-helix (B-HLH) domain have been shown to be important in regulating cellular differentiation. We have isolated a cDNA for a human B-HLH factor, denoted HEB, that shares nearly complete identity in the B-HLH domain with the immunoglobulin enhancer binding proteins encoded by the E2A and ITF2 genes (E proteins). Functional characterization of the protein expressed from this cDNA indicates that HEB is a third member of the E-protein class of B-HLH factors. HEB mRNA was found to be expressed in several tissues and cell types, including skeletal muscle, thymus, and a B-cell line. HEB, ITF2, and the E12 product of the E2A gene all bound to a similar spectrum of E-box sequences as homo-oligomers. All three factors also formed hetero-oligomers with myogenin, and the DNA-binding specificity and binding off-rates (dissociation rates) were modulated after hetero-oligomerization. Both homo- and hetero-oligomers of these proteins were able to distinguish between very closely related E-box sequences. In addition, HEB was shown to form hetero-oligomers with the E12 and ITF2 proteins. Finally, HEB was able to activate gene expression. These data demonstrate that HEB shares characteristics with other E proteins and show that HEB can interact with members of both the myogenic regulatory class and the E-protein class of B-HLH factors. HEB is therefore likely to play an important role in regulating lineage-specific gene expression.

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