Skeletal muscle development is controlled by a family of muscle-specific basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors. Two bHLH genes, dHAND and eHAND, have now been isolated that are expressed in the bilateral heart primordia and subsequently throughout the primitive tubular heart and its derivatives during chick and mouse embryogenesis. Incubation of stage 8 chick embryos with dHAND and eHAND antisense oligonucleotides revealed that either oligonucleotide alone had no effect on embryonic development, whereas together they arrested development at the looping heart tube stage. Thus, dHAND and eHAND may play redundant roles in the regulation of the morphogenetic events of vertebrate heart development.
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