In Drosophila, the tinman gene is absolutely required for development of the dorsal vessel, the insect equivalent of the heart. In vertebrates, the tinman gene is represented by a small family of tinman-related sequences, some of which are expressed during embryonic heart development. At present however, the precise importance of this gene family for vertebrate heart development is unclear. Using the Xenopus embryo, we have employed a dominant inhibitory strategy to interfere with the function of the endogenous tinman-related genes. In these experiments, suppression of tinman gene function can result in the complete elimination of myocardial gene expression and the absence of cell movements associated with embryonic heart development. This inhibition can be rescued by expression of wild-type tinman sequences. These experiments indicate that function of tinman family genes is essential for development of the vertebrate heart.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.