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Conditional Creation and Rescue of Nipbl-Deficiency in Mice Reveals Multiple Determinants of Risk for Congenital Heart Defects


Elucidating the causes of congenital heart defects is made difficult by the complex morphogenesis of the mammalian heart, which takes place early in development, involves contributions from multiple germ layers, and is controlled by many genes. Here, we use a conditional/invertible genetic strategy to identify the cell lineage(s) responsible for the development of heart defects in a Nipbl-deficient mouse model of Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, in which global yet subtle transcriptional dysregulation leads to development of atrial septal defects (ASDs) at high frequency. Using an approach that allows for recombinase-mediated creation or rescue of Nipbl deficiency in different lineages, we uncover complex interactions between the cardiac mesoderm, endoderm, and the rest of the embryo, whereby the risk conferred by genetic abnormality in any one lineage is modified, in a surprisingly non-additive way, by the status of others. We argue that these results are best understood in the context of a model in which the risk of heart defects is associated with the adequacy of early progenitor cell populations relative to the sizes of the structures they must eventually form.

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