Neuromancer Tbx20-related genes (H15/midline) promote cell fate specification and morphogenesis of the Drosophila heart

Dev Biol. 2005 Mar 15;279(2):509-24. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2005.01.013.


The Tbx family of transcription factors are prominently expressed in the early cardiac primordium throughout the animal kingdom. Mutations in Tbx genes result invariably in defective formation and function of the heart, including congenital heart disease in humans. Similar to their vertebrate counterpart, the Drosophila Tbx20 gene pair, neuromancer1 (nmr1, FlyBase:H15) and neuromancer2 (nmr2, Flybase:mid), exhibits a dynamic expression pattern, including in all contractile myocardial cells. Deletion mutants of nmr1 combined with mesoderm-specific knock-down of nmr2 exhibit phenotypes that suggest nmr is critical for correct specification of the cardiac progenitor populations as well as for morphogenesis and assembly of the contractile heart tube. Loss-of-nmr-function causes a switch in cell fates in the cardiogenic region, in that the progenitors expressing the homeobox gene even skipped (eve) are expanded accompanied by a corresponding reduction of the progenitors expressing the homeobox gene ladybird (lbe). As a result, the number of differentiating myocardial cells is severely reduced whereas pericardial cell populations are expanded. Conversely, pan-mesodermal expression of nmr represses eve, while causing an expansion of cardiac lbe expression, as well as ectopic mesodermal expression of the homeobox gene tinman. In addition, nmr mutants with less severe penetrance exhibit cell alignment defects of the myocardium at the dorsal midline, suggesting nmr is also required for cell polarity acquisition of the heart tube. In exploring the regulation of nmr, we find that the GATA factor Pannier is essential for cardiac expression, and acts synergistically with Tinman in promoting nmr expression. Moreover, reducing nmr function in the absence of pannier further aggravates the deficit in cardiac mesoderm specification. Taken together, the data suggest that nmr acts both in concert with and subsequent to pannier and tinman in cardiac specification and differentiation. We propose that nmr is another determinant of cardiogenesis, along with tinman and pannier.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Drosophila Proteins* / genetics*
  • Drosophila Proteins* / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / anatomy & histology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Heart / anatomy & histology
  • Heart / embryology
  • Heart / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Morphogenesis / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • RNA Interference
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • T-Box Domain Proteins* / genetics*
  • T-Box Domain Proteins* / metabolism*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors* / genetics
  • Transcription Factors* / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • H15 protein, Drosophila
  • Repressor Proteins
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors
  • mid protein, Drosophila
  • pnr protein, Drosophila
  • tin protein, Drosophila