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Development (Cambridge, England)

Nkx2-5 regulates cardiac growth through modulation of Wnt signaling by R-spondin3.


PMID 25053429

Abstract

A complex regulatory network of morphogens and transcription factors is essential for normal cardiac development. Nkx2-5 is among the earliest known markers of cardiac mesoderm that is central to the regulatory pathways mediating second heart field (SHF) development. Here, we have examined the specific requirements for Nkx2-5 in the SHF progenitors. We show that Nkx2-5 potentiates Wnt signaling by regulating the expression of the R-spondin3 (Rspo3) gene during cardiogenesis. R-spondins are secreted factors and potent Wnt agonists that in part regulate stem cell proliferation. Our data show that Rspo3 is markedly downregulated in Nkx2-5 mutants and that Rspo3 expression is regulated by Nkx2-5. Conditional inactivation of Rspo3 in the Isl1 lineage resulted in embryonic lethality secondary to impaired development of SHF. More importantly, we find that Wnt signaling is significantly attenuated in Nkx2-5 mutants and that enhancing Wnt/β-catenin signaling by pharmacological treatment or by transgenic expression of Rspo3 rescues the SHF defects in the conditional Nkx2-5(+/-) mutants. We have identified a previously unrecognized genetic link between Nkx2-5 and Wnt signaling that supports continued cardiac growth and proliferation during development. Identification of Rspo3 in cardiac development provides a new paradigm in temporal regulation of Wnt signaling by cardiac-specific transcription factors.