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Mol Cell Biol. 1994 Jul;14(7):4947-57.

Transcription factor GATA-4 regulates cardiac muscle-specific expression of the alpha-myosin heavy-chain gene.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee 53226.


The alpha-myosin heavy-chain (alpha-MHC) gene is the major structural protein in the adult rodent myocardium. Its expression is restricted to the heart by a complex interplay of trans-acting factors and their cis-acting sites. However, to date, the factors that have been shown to regulate expression of this gene have also been found in skeletal muscle cells. Recently, transcription factor GATA-4, which has a tissue distribution limited to the heart and endodermally derived tissues, was identified. We recently found two putative GATA-binding sites within the proximal enhancer of the alpha-MHC gene, suggesting that GATA-4 might regulate its expression. In this study, we establish that GATA-4 interacts with the alpha-MHC GATA sites to stimulate cardiac muscle-specific expression. Mutation of the GATA-4-binding sites either individually or together decreased activity by 50 and 88% in the adult myocardium, respectively. GATA-4-dependent enhancement of activity from a heterologous promoter was mediated through the alpha-MHC GATA sites. Coinjection of an alpha-MHC promoter construct with a GATA-4 expression vector permitted ectopic expression in skeletal muscle but not in fibroblasts. Thus, the lack of alpha-MHC expression in skeletal muscle correlates with a lack of GATA-4. GATA-4 DNA binding activity was significantly up-regulated in triiodothyronine- or retinoic acid-treated cardiomyocytes. Putative GATA-4-binding sites are also found in the regulatory regions of other cardiac muscle-expressed structural genes. This indicates a mechanism whereby triiodothyronine and retinoic acid can exert coordinate control of the cardiac phenotype through a trans-acting regulatory factor.

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