Differentiation of myogenic cells is regulated by multiple positively and negatively acting factors. One well characterized family of helix-loop-helix (HLH) proteins known to play an important role in the regulation of muscle cell development include Myo D, myogenin, Myf-5 and Myf-6 (also designated MRF-4 or herculin). Of interest, most muscle cells express either Myo D or Myf-5 in the committed state, but when induced to differentiate, all turn on expression of myogenin. Myo D transcription factors form heterodimers with products of a more widely expressed family of bHLH genes, the E family, which consists of at least three distinct genes: E2A, IF2 and HEB. Myo D-E heterodimers bind avidly to consensus (CANNTG) E box target sites that are functionally important elements in the upstream regulatory sequences of many muscle-specific terminal differentiation genes.
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