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DNA-binding proteins containing the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) domain have been implicated in lineage determination and the regulation of specific gene expression in a number of cell types. By oligonucleotide screening of an adipocyte cDNA expression library, we have identified a novel member of the bHLH-leucine zipper transcription factor family designated ADD1. ADD1 mRNA is expressed predominantly in brown adipose tissue in vivo and is regulated during both determination and differentiation of cultured adipocyte cell lines. ADD1 can function as a sequence-specific transcriptional activator in that it stimulates expression of a chloramphenicol acetyltransferase vector containing multiple ADD1 binding sequences but is unable to activate the myosin light-chain enhancer, which contains multiple binding sites for another bHLH factor, MyoD. ADD1 can also activate transcription through a binding site present in the 5'-flanking region of the fatty acid synthetase gene which is expressed in a differentiation-dependent manner in adipose cells. These data suggest that ADD1 plays a role in the regulation of determination- and differentiation-specific gene expression in adipocytes.