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Dev Biol. 2000 Aug 15;224(2):263-74.

Patterning the embryonic heart: identification of five mouse Iroquois homeobox genes in the developing heart.

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Experimental and Molecular Cardiology Group, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


We isolated cDNAs of mouse Iroquois-related homeobox genes Irx1, -2, -3, -4, and -5 and characterized their patterns of expression in the developing heart. Irx1 and Irx2 were found to be expressed specifically in the ventricular septum from the onset of its formation onward. In fetal stages, the expression of both genes appeared to gradually become confined to the myocardium of the atrioventricular bundle and bundle branches of the forming ventricular conduction system. Irx3 was found to be expressed specifically in the trabeculated myocardium of the ventricles. Irx4 expression was observed in a segment of the linear heart tube and the atrioventricular canal and ventricular myocardium including the inner curvature after looping, resembling the pattern of MLC2V. Transcripts for Irx5 were detected specifically in the endocardium lining the ventricular and atrial working myocardium that also expressed von Willebrand factor, but were absent from the endocardium of the endocardial cushions, i.e., the atrioventricular canal, inner curvature, and outflow tract. The spatiodevelopmental pattern of Irx5 matched that of ANF, a marker for the forming working myocardium of the chambers. Taken together, all members of the Irx gene family were found to be expressed in highly specific patterns in the developing mouse heart, suggesting a critical role in the specification of the distinct components of the four-chambered heart.

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