• atonal superfamily;
  • bHLH;
  • differentiation;
  • retina;
  • stem/progenitor cell


Basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) transcription factors play important roles in cell type specification and differentiation during the development of the nervous system. In this study, we identified a chicken homolog of Atonal 8/ath6 (Cath6) and examined its role in the developing retina. Unlike other Atonal-family proneural genes that induce neuronal differentiation, Cath6 was expressed in stem cell-like progenitor cells in the marginal region of the retina, and its overexpression inhibited neuronal differentiation. A Cath6 fused with a VP16 transactivation domain recapitulated the inhibitory effect of Cath6 on neuronal differentiation, indicating that Cath6 functions as a transcription activator. These results demonstrate that Cath6 constitutes a unique member of the Atonal-family of genes in that it acts as a negative regulator of neuronal differentiation. Developmental Dynamics 239:2492–2500, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.