The cardiac homeobox protein Nkx2-5 is essential in cardiac development, and mutations in Csx (which encodes Nkx2-5) cause various congenital heart diseases. Using the yeast two-hybrid system with Nkx2-5 as the 'bait', we isolated the T-box-containing transcription factor Tbx5; mutations in TBX5 cause heart and limb malformations in Holt-Oram syndrome (HOS). Co-transfection of Nkx2-5 and Tbx5 into COS-7 cells showed that they also associate with each other in mammalian cells. Glutathione S-transferase (GST) 'pull-down' assays indicated that the N-terminal domain and N-terminal part of the T-box of Tbx5 and the homeodomain of Nkx2-5 were necessary for their interaction. Tbx5 and Nkx2-5 directly bound to the promoter of the gene for cardiac-specific natriuretic peptide precursor type A (Nppa) in tandem, and both transcription factors showed synergistic activation. Deletion analysis showed that both the N-terminal domain and T-box of Tbx5 were important for this transactivation. A G80R mutation of Tbx5, which causes substantial cardiac defects with minor skeletal abnormalities in HOS, did not activate Nppa or show synergistic activation, whereas R237Q, which causes upper-limb malformations without cardiac abnormalities, activated the Nppa promoter to a similar extent to that of wildtype Tbx5. P19CL6 cell lines overexpressing wildtype Tbx5 started to beat earlier and expressed cardiac-specific genes more abundantly than did parental P19CL6 cells, whereas cell lines expressing the G80R mutant did not differentiate into beating cardiomyocytes. These results indicate that two different types of cardiac transcription factors synergistically induce cardiac development.