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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2014;110:189-216. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-405943-6.00005-1.

Id proteins: small molecules, mighty regulators.

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Immunobiology Cancer Research Program, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.
Immunobiology Cancer Research Program, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA. Electronic address:


The family of inhibitor of differentiation (Id) proteins is a group of evolutionarily conserved molecules, which play important regulatory roles in organisms ranging from Drosophila to humans. Id proteins are small polypeptides harboring a helix-loop-helix (HLH) motif, which are best known to mediate dimerization with other basic HLH proteins, primarily E proteins. Because Id proteins do not possess the basic amino acids adjacent to the HLH motif necessary for DNA binding, Id proteins inhibit the function of E protein homodimers, as well as heterodimers between E proteins and tissue-specific bHLH proteins. However, Id proteins have also been shown to have E protein-independent functions. The Id genes are broadly but differentially expressed in a variety of cell types. Transcription of the Id genes is controlled by transcription factors such as C/EBPβ and Egr as well as by signaling pathways triggered by different stimuli, which include bone morphogenic proteins, cytokines, and ligands of T cell receptors. In general, Id proteins are capable of inhibiting the differentiation of progenitors of different cell types, promoting cell-cycle progression, delaying cellular senescence, and facilitating cell migration. These properties of Id proteins enable them to play significant roles in stem cell maintenance, vasculogenesis, tumorigenesis and metastasis, the development of the immune system, and energy metabolism. In this review, we intend to highlight the current understanding of the function of Id proteins and discuss gaps in our knowledge about the mechanisms whereby Id proteins exert their diverse effects in multiple cellular processes.


E protein; E2A; Id1; Id2; Id3; Id4; helix-loop-helix

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