Congenital heart diseases are traditionally considered to be multifactorial in pathogenesis resulting from environmental and genetic interactions that determine penetrance and expressivity within a genetically predisposed family. Recent evidence suggests that genetic contributions have been significantly underestimated. However, single gene defects occur only in a minority of cases, and multigenetic causes of congenital heart diseases have not been fully demonstrated. Here, we show that interactions between alleles of 3 Pbx genes, which encode homeodomain transcription factors, are sufficient to determine the phenotypic presentation of congenital heart diseases in mice. A major role is served by Pbx1, whose inactivation results in persistent truncus arteriosus. Reduction or absence of Pbx2 or Pbx3 leads to Pbx1 haploinsufficiency and specific malformations that resemble tetralogy of Fallot, overriding aorta with ventricular septal defect, and bicuspid aortic valves. Disruption of Meis1, which encodes a Pbx DNA-binding partner, results in cardiac anomalies that resemble those caused by Pbx mutations. Each of the observed cardiac defects represents developmental abnormalities affecting distinct stages of cardiac outflow tract development and corresponds to specific types of human congenital heart disease. Thus, varied deficiencies in the Pbx gene family produce a full spectrum of cardiac defects involving the outflow tract, providing a framework for determining multigenetic causes of congenital heart anomalies.
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart development
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine