Cell fate decisions are driven through the integration of inductive signals and tissue-specific transcription factors (TFs), although the details on how this information converges in cis remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate that the five genetic components essential for cardiac specification in Drosophila, including the effectors of Wg and Dpp signaling, act as a collective unit to cooperatively regulate heart enhancer activity, both in vivo and in vitro. Their combinatorial binding does not require any specific motif orientation or spacing, suggesting an alternative mode of enhancer function whereby cooperative activity occurs with extensive motif flexibility. A fraction of enhancers co-occupied by cardiogenic TFs had unexpected activity in the neighboring visceral mesoderm but could be rendered active in heart through single-site mutations. Given that cardiac and visceral cells are both derived from the dorsal mesoderm, this "dormant" TF binding signature may represent a molecular footprint of these cells' developmental lineage.
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