The regulation of cardiac gene expression by GATA zinc finger transcription factors is well documented in vertebrates. However, genetic studies in mice have failed to demonstrate a function for these proteins in cardiomyocyte specification. In Drosophila, the existence of a cardiogenic GATA factor has been implicated through the analysis of a cardial cell enhancer of the muscle differentiation gene D-mef2. We show that the GATA gene pannier is expressed in the dorsal mesoderm and required for cardial cell formation while repressing a pericardial cell fate. Ectopic expression of Pannier results in cardial cell overproduction, while co-expression of Pannier and the homeodomain protein Tinman synergistically activate cardiac gene expression and induce cardial cells. The related GATA4 protein of mice likewise functions as a cardiogenic factor in Drosophila, demonstrating an evolutionarily conserved function between Pannier and GATA4 in heart development.

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