Members of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family of transcription factors have been shown to control development and differentiation of a variety of cell types. We describe a novel bHLH protein, called capsulin, which is expressed specifically in mesodermally-derived cells that surround the epithelium of the developing gastrointestinal, genitourinary and respiratory systems during mouse embryogenesis. Capsulin transcripts also mark the spiral septum of the heart and progenitor cells that give rise to the pericardium and coronary arteries. Capsulin shares high homology with a recently identified bHLH protein from Drosophila, called bHLH102C, which is expressed in visceral muscle cells that surround the midgut. Capsulin binds a specific E-box consensus sequence (CANNTG) as a heterodimer with the widely-expressed bHLH protein E12, but it does not activate transcription through that sequence on its own. Its restricted expression pattern and DNA binding activity suggest that capsulin regulates gene expression in specific subtypes of visceral mesodermal cells involved in organogenesis and in precursor cells that contribute to the pericardium, coronary arteries and regions of the heart.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.