Mammalian hairy and Enhancer of split homolog-1 (HES-1) encodes a helix-loop-helix (HLH) factor that is thought to act as a negative regulator of neurogenesis. To directly investigate the functions of HES-1 in mammalian embryogenesis, we performed a targeted disruption of the HES-1 locus. Mice homozygous for the mutation exhibited severe neurulation defects and died during gestation or just after birth. In the developing brain of HES-1-null embryos, expression of the neural differentiation factor Mash-1 and other neural HLH factors was up-regulated and postmitotic neurons appeared prematurely. These results suggest that HES-1 normally controls the proper timing of neurogenesis and regulates neural tube morphogenesis.
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