Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Hox Hearts

Role of Hox proteins in heart development revealed

28 September 2020

Hox Hearts

One leaky valve is all it takes to send things into disarray. We’re not talking about plumbing but the human heart. Congenital heart defects, such as a leaky valve, are sometimes caused by the failure of developing heart cells to mature correctly. Researchers focus on one group of cells vital for heart development called SHF cardiac progenitor cells. By analysing the messenger RNA in these cells in embryonic mouse hearts, they found the protein Hoxb1 was needed for correct maturation. Activating Hoxb1 in a subgroup of these cells disrupted the formation of the bottom right chamber of the heart as captured using fluorescence microscopy (pictured, right) when compared to hearts with normal Hoxb1 activity (left). Moreover, mice lacking Hoxb1 and a related protein, Hoxa1, had defects in the partitions between the top and bottom chambers of the heart. This provides clues to how certain congenital heart defects may arise.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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