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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Sep 1;90(17):8145-9.

Csx: a murine homeobox-containing gene specifically expressed in the developing heart.

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Molecular Medicine Divisions, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA 02215.


The molecular control of the differentiation process depends in part on lineage-restricted transcription factors that regulate expression of tissue-specific genes. Although significant progress has been made in molecular understanding of skeletal muscle differentiation, no information is available concerning the genes involved in development of the heart, the first organ to form in vertebrate embryos. Many vertebrate homeobox-containing genes have been shown to be expressed in broad regions of the mouse embryo, but no expression of a homeobox gene has been found in the most anterior region of the early embryo, the heart primordium. We report here on the cloning of a murine homeobox cDNA, Csx (cardiac-specific homeobox). The Csx homeodomain sequence is divergent from those of the Hox class genes but is related to that of Drosophila msh-2 (NK-4), which plays a key role in Drosophila heart formation. Csx is conserved in evolution and Csx homologs exist in all vertebrates examined. Transcripts of Csx are detected from the presomite stage (7.5 days postcoitum), when mesoderm differentiates into promyocardium. Csx expression is restricted in the myocardial cells from 8.5 days postcoitum through adult. Csx is not expressed in skeletal or smooth muscle or any other tissues examined. Expression of Csx precedes that of cardiac-specific genes in embryonic stem cells differentiating into beating myocardial cells in vitro. Although physiological function of Csx is yet to be determined, the temporal and spacial pattern of Csx expression raises a possibility that Csx may play a critical role in the differentiation of cardiac cells.

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