Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), the most common congenital heart defect affecting 1% to 2% of the population, is a major risk factor for premature aortic valve disease and accounts for the majority of valve replacement. The genetic basis and mechanisms of BAV etiology and pathogenesis remain largely undefined.Methods:
Cardiac structure and function was assessed in mice lacking a Gata6 allele. Human GATA6 gene variants were analyzed in 452 BAV cases from the BAV consortium and 1849 controls from the Framingham GWAS (Genome Wide Association Study). GATA6 expression was determined in mice and human tissues using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry. Mechanistic studies were carried out in cultured cells.Results:
Gata6 heterozygous mice have highly penetrant right-left (RL)-type BAV, the most frequent type in humans. GATA6 transcript levels are lower in human BAV compared with normal tricuspid valves. Mechanistically, Gata6 haploinsufficiency disrupts valve remodeling and extracellular matrix composition through dysregulation of important signaling molecules, including matrix metalloproteinase 9. Cell-specific inactivation of Gata6 reveals an essential role for GATA6 in secondary heart field myocytes because loss of 1 Gata6 allele from Isl-1-positive cells—but not from endothelial or neural crest cells—recapitulates the phenotype of Gata6 heterozygous mice.Conclusions:
The data identify a new cellular and molecular mechanism underlying BAV. The availability of an animal model for the most frequent human BAV opens the way for the elucidation of BAV pathogenesis and the development of much needed therapies.