The molecular determinants that direct gene expression to the ventricles of the heart are for the most part unknown. Additionally, little data is available on how the anterior/posterior axis of the heart tube is determined and whether the left and right atrial and ventricular chambers are assigned as part of this process. Utilizing myosin light chain-2 ventricular promoter/beta-galactosidase reporter transgenes, we have determined the minimal cis-acting sequences required for ventricular-specific gene expression. In multiple independent transgenic mouse lines, we found that both a 250 base pair myosin light chain-2 ventricular promoter fragment, as well as a dimerized 28 bp sub-element (HF-1) containing binding sites for HF1a and HF1b/MEF2 factors, directed ventricular-specific reporter expression from as early as the endogenous gene, at day 7.5-8.0 post coitum. While the endogenous gene is expressed uniformly throughout both ventricles, the transgenes were expressed in a right ventricular/conotruncal dominant fashion, suggesting that they contain only a subset of the elements which respond to positional information in the developing heart tube. Expression of the transgene was cell autonomous and its temporospatial characteristics not affected by mouse strain/methylation state of the genome. To determine whether ventricular-specific expression of the transgene was dependent upon regulatory genes required for correct ventricular differentiation, the 250 base pair transgene was bred into both retinoid X receptoralpha and Nkx2-5 null backgrounds. The transgene was expressed in both mutant backgrounds, despite the absence of endogenous myosin light chain-2 ventricular transcript in Nkx2-5 null embryos. Ventricular specification, as judged by transgene expression, appeared to occur normally in both mutants. Thus, the HF-1 element, directs chamber-specific transcription of a transgene reporter independently of retinoid X receptoralpha and Nkx2-5, and defines a minimal combinatorial pathway for ventricular chamber gene expression. The patterned expression of this transgene may provide a model system in which to investigate the cues that dictate anterior-posterior (right ventricle/left ventricle) gradients during mammalian heart development.
An HF-1a/HF-1b/MEF-2 combinatorial element confers cardiac ventricular specificity and established an anterior-posterior gradient of expression
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R.S. Ross, S. Navankasattusas, R.P. Harvey, K.R. Chien; An HF-1a/HF-1b/MEF-2 combinatorial element confers cardiac ventricular specificity and established an anterior-posterior gradient of expression. Development 1 June 1996; 122 (6): 1799–1809. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/dev.122.6.1799
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