Cardiac Neural Crest Expression of Hand2 Regulates Outflow and Second Heart Field Development

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The cardiac neural crest (cNC) lineage plays key roles in heart development by directly contributing to heart structures and regulating development of other heart lineages. The basic helix–loop–helix factor Hand2 regulates development of cardiovascular structures and NC-derived tissues including those that contribute to face and peripheral nervous system. Although Hand2 is expressed in cNC, its role has not been examined because of an early embryonic lethality when Hand2 is deleted in the NC lineage. We find that the lethality is attributable to loss of norepinephrine synthesis that can be overcome by activating adrenergic receptors. In rescued embryos, loss of Hand2 in the NC lineage leads to the misalignment of the outflow tract and aortic arch arteries. Defects include pulmonary stenosis, interrupted aortic artery, retroesophageal right subclavian artery, and ventricular septum defect, which resemble congenital heart defects attributed to defects in the NC. Hand2 functions in part by regulating signaling from the cNC to other cardiac lineages but not by regulating migration or survival of the cNC. Loss of Hand2 in NC also uncovered a novel role for the cNC in regulating proliferation and differentiation of the second heart field–derived myocardium that persists late into development. These results show that the cNC functions as a major signaling center for heart development and Hand2 plays a pivotal role in regulating both cell-autonomous and -nonautonomous functions of the cNC.

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