In vertebrates, heart formation which integrates different structures and cell types is a complex process that involves a network of genes regulated by transcription factors. Proper spatiotemporal expression of these factors ensure the highly needed tight control of each step in organogenesis. A mistake at any step from cell-commitment to valve formation will have a major impact on heart morphogenesis and function leading to congenital heart disease (CHD). Cardiac abnormalities occur with an incidence of one per 100 live births and represent 25% of all congenital malformations. As an alternative approach to linkage-analysis of familial cases of CHD, we started screening familial and sporadic cases of CHDs in a highly consanguineous population for mutations in genes encoding cardiac-enriched transcription factors. The evolutionarily conserved role of these proteins in cardiac development suggested a role in CHD. In this study, we report a mutation in the gene encoding GATA4, one of the earliest markers of heart development. This mutation was found in two out of 26 patients with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), and in none of the 94 patients with different phenotypes included in the study, nor in 223 healthy individuals. The heterozygous mutation results in an amino acid substitution in the first zinc finger of GATA4 that reduced its transcriptional activation of downstream target genes, without affecting GATA4 ability to bind DNA, nor its interaction with ZFPM2.
2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.