Reciprocal regulation of the basic helix-loop-helix/Per-Arnt-Sim partner proteins, Arnt and Arnt2, during neuronal differentiation

Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Jun;41(11):5626-38. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt206. Epub 2013 Apr 17.


Basic helix-loop-helix/Per-Arnt-Sim (bHLH/PAS) transcription factors function broadly in development, homeostasis and stress response. Active bHLH/PAS heterodimers consist of a ubiquitous signal-regulated subunit (e.g., hypoxia-inducible factors, HIF-1α/2α/3α; the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, AhR) or tissue-restricted subunit (e.g., NPAS1/3/4, Single Minded 1/2), paired with a general partner protein, aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (Arnt or Arnt2). We have investigated regulation of the neuron-enriched Arnt paralogue, Arnt2. We find high Arnt/Arnt2 ratios in P19 embryonic carcinoma cells and ES cells are dramatically reversed to high Arnt2/Arnt on neuronal differentiation. mRNA half-lives of Arnt and Arnt2 remain similar in both parent and neuronal differentiated cells. The GC-rich Arnt2 promoter, while heavily methylated in Arnt only expressing hepatoma cells, is methylation free in P19 and ES cells, where it is bivalent with respect to active H3K4me3 and repressive H3K27me3 histone marks. Typical of a 'transcription poised' developmental gene, H3K27me3 repressive marks are removed from Arnt2 during neuronal differentiation. Our data are consistent with a switch to predominant Arnt2 expression in neurons to allow specific functions of neuronal bHLH/PAS factors and/or to avoid neuronal bHLH/PAS factors from interfering with AhR/Arnt signalling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator / biosynthesis
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator / genetics*
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator / metabolism*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / biosynthesis
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Methylation
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Mice
  • Neurogenesis / genetics*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Arnt protein, mouse
  • Arnt2 protein, mouse
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator