A GATA-dependent nkx-2.5 regulatory element activates early cardiac gene expression in transgenic mice
nkx-2.5 is one of the first genes expressed in the developing heart of early stage vertebrate embryos. Cardiac expression of nkx-2.5 is maintained throughout development and nkx-2.5 also is expressed in the developing pharyngeal arches, spleen, thyroid and tongue. Genomic sequences flanking the mouse nkx-2.5 gene were analyzed for early developmental regulatory activity in transgenic mice. Approximately 3 kb of 5' flanking sequence is sufficient to activate gene expression in the cardiac
... t as early as E7.25 and in limited regions of the developing heart at later stages. Expression also was detected in the developing spleen anlage at least 24 hours before the earliest reported spleen marker and in the pharyngeal pouches and their derivatives including the thyroid. The observed expression pattern from the -3 kb construct represents a subset of the endogenous nkx-2.5 expression pattern which is evidence for compartment-specific nkx-2.5 regulatory modules. A 505 bp regulatory element was identified that contains multiple GATA, NKE, bHLH, HMG and HOX consensus binding sites. This element is sufficient for gene activation in the cardiac crescent and in the heart outflow tract, pharynx and spleen when linked directly to lacZ or when positioned adjacent to the hsp68 promoter. Mutation of paired GATA sites within this element eliminates gene activation in the heart, pharynx and spleen primordia of transgenic embryos. The dependence of this nkx-2. 5 regulatory element on GATA sites for gene activity is evidence for a GATA-dependent regulatory mechanism controlling nkx-2.5 gene expression. The presence of consensus binding sites for other developmentally important regulatory factors within the 505 bp distal element suggests that combinatorial interactions between multiple regulatory factors are responsible for the initial activation of nkx-2.5 in the cardiac, thyroid and spleen primordia.