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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Complex modular cis-acting elements regulate expression of the cardiac specifying homeobox gene Csx/Nkx2.5.

The murine homeobox gene Csx/Nkx2.5 is an evolutionarily highly conserved gene related to the Drosophila tinman gene, which specifies cardiac and visceral mesoderm. Since Csx/Nkx2.5 plays an essential role in heart development, studying its regulation is essential for the better understanding of molecular mechanisms of cardiogenesis and the pathogenesis of congenital heart disease in humans. In this study, we characterized the murine Csx/Nkx2.5 gene and identified two novel untranslated exons, 1a, and 1b, resulting in three different Csx/Nkx2.5 transcripts. To examine the tissue-specific transcriptional regulation in vivo, we analyzed a total of 23 kb of Csx/Nkx2.5 upstream and downstream sequences by generating transgenic embryos carrying lacZ reporter constructs containing various lengths of flanking sequence. With 14 kb of 5' flanking sequence, lacZ expression was observed in the cardiac crescent at E7.5, and in the outflow tract, the interatrial groove, the atrioventricular canal and right and left ventricles, as well as in pharyngeal floor, thyroid primordia, and stomach at E10. 5. In adult animals, lacZ expression of the transgene was limited to the atrioventricular junction and the subendocardium of the ventricular septum. Reducing the size of flanking sequence to 3.3 kb of intron 2 restricted lacZ expression to the outflow tract and the basal part of the right ventricle in E10.5 embryos. In contrast, the addition of 6 kb of 3' flanking sequence caused strong expression of the reporter gene in the entire right ventricle. Interestingly, Csx/Nkx2. 5 seems to be negatively regulated by its own gene product, because when lacZ was "knocked-in" to replace the entire coding exons, lacZ expression was much higher in the heart of homozygous embryos than that in the heterozygote. These results indicate that the transcriptional regulatory elements of Csx/Nkx 2.5 seems unexpectedly highly modular, and is temporally regulated in a dynamic manner by different enhancer regions. Since Csx/Nkx2.5-like genes are expressed in all species having a heart, their complex modular organization with multiple enhancers probably reflects progressive addition of regulatory elements during the evolution from a simple heart tube to a complex four-chambered organ.[1]


  1. Complex modular cis-acting elements regulate expression of the cardiac specifying homeobox gene Csx/Nkx2.5. Tanaka, M., Wechsler, S.B., Lee, I.W., Yamasaki, N., Lawitts, J.A., Izumo, S. Development (1999) [Pubmed]
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