Transcriptional activation of BMP-4 and regulation of mammalian organogenesis by GATA-4 and -6

Dev Biol. 2003 Feb 1;254(1):131-48. doi: 10.1016/s0012-1606(02)00026-x.


Transcription factors GATA-4, -5, and -6 constitute an evolutionary conserved subfamily of vertebrate zinc finger regulators highly expressed in the developing heart and gut. Genetic evidence suggests that each protein is essential for embryonic development, but their exact functions are not fully elucidated. Moreover, because all three proteins share similar transcriptional properties in vitro, and because transcripts for two or more GATA genes are present in similar tissues, the molecular basis underlying in vivo specificity of GATA factors remains undefined. Knowledge of the exact cell types expressing each protein and identification of downstream targets would greatly help define their function. We have used high-resolution immunohistochemistry to precisely determine the cellular distribution of the GATA-4, -5, and -6 proteins in murine embryogenesis. The results reveal novel sites of expression in mesodermal and ectodermal cells. In particular, GATA-4 and -6 expression was closely associated with yolk sac vasculogenesis and early endoderm-mesoderm signaling. Additionally, GATA-6 was strongly expressed in the embryonic ectoderm, neural tube, and neural crest-derived cells. This pattern of expression closely paralled that of BMP-4, and the BMP-4 gene was identified as a direct downstream target for GATA-4 and -6. These findings offer new insight into the function of GATA-4 and -6 during early stages of embryogenesis and reveal the existence of a positive cross-regulatory loop between BMP-4 and GATA-4. They also raise the possibility that part of the early defects in GATA-4 and/or GATA-6 null embryos may be due to impaired BMP-4 signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Line
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism*
  • GATA4 Transcription Factor
  • GATA6 Transcription Factor
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Organogenesis / physiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Transcriptional Activation*


  • BMP4 protein, human
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 4
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • GATA4 Transcription Factor
  • GATA6 Transcription Factor
  • GATA6 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors