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J Assoc Res Otolaryngol. 2012 Jun;13(3):281-93. doi: 10.1007/s10162-012-0317-4. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

Atoh1, an essential transcription factor in neurogenesis and intestinal and inner ear development: function, regulation, and context dependency.

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Division of Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0666, USA.


Atoh1 (also known as Math1, Hath1, and Cath1 in mouse, human, and chicken, respectively) is a proneural basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor that is required in a variety of developmental contexts. Atoh1 is involved in differentiation of neurons, secretory cells in the gut, and mechanoreceptors including auditory hair cells. Together with the two closely related bHLH genes, Neurog1 and NeuroD1, Atoh1 regulates neurosensory development in the ear as well as neurogenesis in the cerebellum. Atoh1 activity in the cochlea is both necessary and sufficient to drive auditory hair cell differentiation, in keeping with its known role as a regulator of various genes that are markers of terminal differentiation. Atoh1 is known in other fields as an oncogene and a tumor suppressor involved in regulation of cell cycle control and apoptosis. Aberrant Atoh1 activity in adult tissue is implicated in cancer progression, specifically in medullablastoma and adenomatous polyposis carcinoma. We demonstrate through protein sequence comparison that Atoh1 contains conserved phosphorylation sites outside the bHLH domain, which may allow regulation through post-translational modification. With such diverse roles, tight regulation of Atoh1 at both the transcriptional and protein level is essential.

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