The bHLH transcription factor Hand2 is essential for the maintenance of noradrenergic properties in differentiated sympathetic neurons

Dev Biol. 2009 May 15;329(2):191-200. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.02.020. Epub 2009 Feb 27.


The basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor Hand2 is essential for the proliferation and noradrenergic differentiation of sympathetic neuron precursors during development. Here we address the function of Hand2 in postmitotic, differentiated sympathetic neurons. Knockdown of endogenous Hand2 in cultured E12 chick sympathetic neurons by siRNA results in a significant (about 60%) decrease in the expression of the noradrenergic marker genes dopamine-beta-hydroxylase (DBH) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). In contrast, expression of the pan-neuronal genes TuJ1, HuC and SCG10 was not affected. To analyze the in vivo role of Hand2 in differentiated sympathetic neurons we used mice harboring a conditional Hand2-null allele and excised the gene by expression of Cre recombinase under control of the DBH promotor. Mouse embryos homozygous for Hand2 gene deletion showed decreased sympathetic neuron number and TH expression was strongly reduced in the residual neuron population. The in vitro Hand2 knockdown also enhances the CNTF-induced expression of the cholinergic marker genes vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT) and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT). Taken together, these findings demonstrate that the Hand2 transcription factor plays a key role in maintaining noradrenergic properties in differentiated neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • DNA Primers
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase / genetics
  • Epistasis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / cytology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • DNA Primers
  • Hand2 protein, mouse
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine beta-Hydroxylase
  • Norepinephrine