GATA4 is a dosage-sensitive regulator of cardiac morphogenesis

Dev Biol. 2004 Nov 1;275(1):235-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2004.08.008.


Normal heart development is orchestrated by a set of highly conserved transcription factors that includes GATA4, Nkx2-5, and Tbx5. Heterozygous mutation of each of these genes causes congenital heart disease in humans. In mouse models, haploinsufficiency for Nkx2-5 or Tbx5 resulted in an increased incidence of structural heart disease, confirming that normal heart development is sensitive to small changes in expression levels of Nkx2-5 and Tbx5. However, mice haploinsufficient for GATA4 have not been reported to have cardiac abnormalities. We generated two new GATA4 alleles, GATA4(H) and GATA4(flox). GATA4(flox/flox) embryos expressed 50% less GATA4 protein in the heart and survived normally. In contrast, GATA4(H/H) embryos expressed 70% less GATA4 protein in the heart and died between days 13.5 and 16.5 of gestation. These embryos had common atrioventricular canal (CAVC), double outlet right ventricle (DORV), hypoplastic ventricular myocardium, and normal coronary vasculature. Myocardial hypoplasia was associated with diminished cardiomyocyte proliferation. Hemodynamic measurements demonstrated that these embryos had normal systolic function, severe diastolic dysfunction, and atrioventricular regurgitation. Surprisingly, expression levels of the putative GATA4 target genes ANF, BNP, MEF2C, Nkx2-5, cyclin D2, and BMP4 were unchanged in mutant hearts, suggesting that GATA4 is not a dose-limiting regulator of the expression of these genes during later stages of embryonic cardiac development. These data demonstrate that multiple aspects of embryonic cardiac morphogenesis and function are exquisitely sensitive to small changes in GATA4 expression levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Chimera
  • GABA Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Gene Targeting
  • Heart / embryology*
  • Heart / physiology
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mice
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Time Factors


  • GABA Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Gabt4 protein, mouse
  • Membrane Transport Proteins