Congenital heart defects comprise the most common form of major birth defects, affecting 0.7% of all newborn infants. Jacobsen syndrome (11q-) is a rare chromosomal disorder caused by deletions in distal 11q. We have previously determined that a wide spectrum of the most common congenital heart defects occur in 11q-, including an unprecedented high frequency of hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). We identified an approximately 7 Mb 'cardiac critical region' in distal 11q that contains a putative causative gene(s) for congenital heart disease. In this study, we utilized chromosomal microarray mapping to characterize three patients with 11q- and congenital heart defects that carry interstitial deletions overlapping the 7 Mb cardiac critical region. We propose that this 1.2 Mb region of overlap harbors a gene(s) that causes at least a subset of the congenital heart defects that occur in 11q-. We demonstrate that one gene in this region, ETS-1 (a member of the ETS family of transcription factors), is expressed in the endocardium and neural crest during early mouse heart development. Gene-targeted deletion of ETS-1 in mice in a C57/B6 background causes, with high penetrance, large membranous ventricular septal defects and a bifid cardiac apex, and less frequently a non-apex-forming left ventricle (one of the hallmarks of HLHS). Our results implicate an important role for the ETS-1 transcription factor in mammalian heart development and should provide important insights into some of the most common forms of congenital heart disease.