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Mutations in transcription factors that play a role in the development of the endocrine pancreas, such as insulin promoter factor-1 and NeuroD1/BETA2, have been associated with diabetes. Cell type-specific members of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) family of transcription factors play essential roles in the development and maintenance of many differentiated cell types, including pancreatic beta-cells. Neurogenin 3 is a bHLH transcription factor that is expressed in the developing central nervous system and the embryonic pancreas. Mice lacking this transcription factor fail to develop any islet endocrine cells and die postnatally from diabetes. Because neurogenin 3 is required for the development of beta-cells and other pancreatic islet cell types, we considered it a candidate diabetes gene. We screened the coding region of the human neurogenin 3 gene (NEUROG3) for mutations in a group of unrelated Japanese subjects with maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY). We found three sequence variants: a deletion of 2-bp in the 5'-untranslated region (NEUROG3-g.-44-45delCA), a G-to-A substitution in codon 167 (g.499G/ A), resulting in a Gly-to-Arg replacement (G/R167), and a T-to-C substitution in codon 199 (g.596T/C), resulting in a Phe/Ser polymorphism F/S199. These polymorphisms were not associated with MODY, thereby suggesting that mutations in NEUROG3 are not a common cause of MODY in Japanese patients.