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Genes Dev. 1994 Nov 15;8(22):2729-42.

Negative regulation of proneural gene activity: hairy is a direct transcriptional repressor of achaete.

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Department of Biology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0322.


hairy (h) acts as a negative regulator in both embryonic segmentation and adult peripheral nervous system (PNS) development in Drosophila. Here, we demonstrate that h, a basic-helix-loop-helix (bHLH) protein, is a sequence-specific DNA-binding protein and transcriptional repressor. We identify the proneural gene achaete (ac) as a direct downstream target of h regulation in vivo. Mutation of a single, evolutionarily conserved, high-affinity h binding site in the upstream region of ac results in the appearance of ectopic sensory organs in adult flies, in a pattern that strongly resembles the phenotype of h mutants. This indicates that direct repression of ac by h plays an essential role in pattern formation in the PNS. Our results demonstrate that HLH proteins negatively regulate ac transcription by at least two distinct mechanisms.

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