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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 1996 Feb;6(1):25-32.

Regulation of vertebrate neural cell fate by transcription factors.

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Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Evidence that region- and cell-type-specific transcription factors regulate morphogenesis and differentiation of the vertebrate nervous system comes from numerous studies, including descriptions of discrete patterns of expression during neural development and analysis of mutant phenotypes. Recently published works provide insights into the roles of vertebrate transcription factors in regulating the generation of neural precursors, regionalization of the nervous system, and subsequent differentiation of specific cell types within these regions. For instance, misexpression studies in Xenopus embryos show that the newly isolated basic helix-loop-helix protein NeuroD is able to promote neurogenesis, whereas analysis of mouse embryos mutant for the homeobox gene En-1 demonstrates that this transcription factor is required for proper development of the midbrain-hindbrain region. A recent study in chick shows that the combinatorial expression of Islet-1, Lim-1, and two other LIM homeobox genes, Islet-2 and Lim-3, defines subclasses of motor neurons in the spinal cord, supporting a model where combinatorial repertoires of transcription factors may act to generate diverse cell types.

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