Spatiotemporal Gene Coexpression and Regulation in Mouse Cardiomyocytes of Early Cardiac Morphogenesis
Cardiac looping is an early morphogenic process critical for the formation of four-chambered mammalian hearts. To study the roles of signaling pathways, transcription factors (TFs) and genetic networks in the process, we constructed gene co-expression networks and identified gene modules highly activated in individual cardiomyocytes (CMs) at multiple anatomical regions and developmental stages. Function analyses of the module genes uncovered major pathways important for spatiotemporal CM differentiation. Interestingly, about half of the pathways were highly active in cardiomyocytes at outflow tract (OFT) and atrioventricular canal (AVC), including many well-known signaling pathways for cardiac development and several newly identified ones. Most of the OFT-AVC pathways were predicted to be regulated by 66 transcription factors (TFs) actively expressed at the OFT-AVC locations, with the prediction supported by motif enrichment analysis of the TF targets, including 10 TFs that have not been previously associated with cardiac development, e.g., Etv5, Rbpms, and Baz2b. Finally, our study showed that the OFT-AVC TF targets were significantly enriched with genes associated with mouse heart developmental abnormalities and human congenital heart defects.
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