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Science. 2006 Sep 29;313(5795):1922-7.

Gene regulatory networks in the evolution and development of the heart.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 6000 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


The heart, an ancient organ and the first to form and function during embryogenesis, evolved by the addition of new structures and functions to a primitive pump. Heart development is controlled by an evolutionarily conserved network of transcription factors that connect signaling pathways with genes for muscle growth, patterning, and contractility. During evolution, this ancestral gene network was expanded through gene duplication and co-option of additional networks. Mutations in components of the cardiac gene network cause congenital heart disease, the most common human birth defect. The consequences of such mutations reveal the logic of organogenesis and the evolutionary origins of morphological complexity.

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