The role of Atonal transcription factors in the development of mechanosensitive cells

Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2013 May;24(5):438-47. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2013.03.010. Epub 2013 Mar 30.


Mechanosensation is an evolutionarily ancient sensory modality seen in all main animal groups. Mechanosensation can be mediated by sensory neurons or by dedicated receptor cells that form synapses with sensory neurons. Evidence over the last 15-20 years suggests that both classes of mechanosensory cells can be specified by the atonal class of basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors. In this review we discuss recent work addressing how atonal factors specify mechanosensitive cells in vertebrates and invertebrates, and how the redeployment of these factors underlies the regeneration of mechanosensitive cells in some vertebrate groups.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Drosophila melanogaster / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / cytology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / cytology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Vertebrates / growth & development
  • Vertebrates / physiology*


  • ATOH1 protein, human
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • ato protein, Drosophila