Forkhead box transcription factors in embryonic heart development and congenital heart disease

Life Sci. 2016 Jan 1;144:194-201. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2015.12.001. Epub 2015 Dec 2.


Embryonic heart development is a very complicated process regulated precisely by a network composed of many genes and signaling pathways in time and space. Forkhead box (Fox, FOX) proteins are a family of transcription factors characterized by the presence of an evolutionary conserved "forkhead"or "winged-helix" DNA-binding domain and able to organize temporal and spatial gene expression during development. They are involved in a wide variety of cellular processes, such as cell cycle progression, proliferation, differentiation, migration, metabolism and DNA damage response. An abundance of studies in model organisms and systems has established that Foxa2, Foxc1/c2, Foxh1 and Foxm1, Foxos and Foxps are important components of the signaling pathways that instruct cardiogenesis and embryonic heart development, playing paramount roles in heart development. The previous studies also have demonstrated that mutations in some of the forkhead box genes and the aberrant expression of forkhead box gene are heavily implicated in the congenital heart disease (CHD) of humans. This review primarily focuses on the current understanding of heart development regulated by forkhead box transcription factors and molecular genetic mechanisms by which forkhead box factors modulate heart development during embryogenesis and organogenesis. This review also summarizes human CHD related mutations in forkhead box genes as well as the abnormal expression of forkhead box gene, and discusses additional possible regulatory mechanisms of the forkhead box genes during embryonic heart development that warrant further investigation.

Keywords: Congenital heart disease (CHD); Embryonic heart development; Forkhead box (Fox, FOX) transcription factor; Gene mutation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Embryonic Development / genetics*
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Heart / embryology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / genetics*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Pregnancy


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors