We have used the slow myosin heavy chain (MyHC) 3 gene to study the molecular mechanisms that control atrial chamber-specific gene expression. Initially, slow MyHC 3 is uniformly expressed throughout the tubular heart of the quail embryo. As cardiac development proceeds, an anterior-posterior gradient of slow MyHC 3 expression develops, culminating in atrial chamber-restricted expression of this gene following chamberization. Two cis elements within the slow MyHC 3 gene promoter, a GATA-binding motif and a vitamin D receptor (VDR)-like binding motif, control chamber-specific expression. The GATA element of the slow MyHC 3 is sufficient for expression of a heterologous reporter gene in both atrial and ventricular cardiomyocytes, and expression of GATA-4, but not Nkx2-5 or myocyte enhancer factor 2C, activates reporter gene expression in fibroblasts. Equivalent levels of GATA-binding activity were found in extracts of atrial and ventricular cardiomyocytes from embryonic chamberized hearts. These observations suggest that GATA factors positively regulate slow MyHC 3 gene expression throughout the tubular heart and subsequently in the atria. In contrast, an inhibitory activity, operating through the VDR-like element, increased in ventricular cardiomyocytes during the transition of the heart from a tubular to a chambered structure. Overexpression of the VDR, acting via the VDR-like element, duplicates the inhibitory activity in ventricular but not in atrial cardiomyocytes. These data suggest that atrial chamber-specific expression of the slow MyHC 3 gene is achieved through the VDR-like inhibitory element in ventricular cardiomyocytes at the time distinct atrial and ventricular chambers form.
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View details for PubMedID 9742119
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC109188