Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), the leading congenital heart disease, occurs in 1%–2% of the population. Genetic studies suggest that BAV is an autosomal-dominant disease with reduced penetrance. However, only 1 gene, NOTCH1, has been linked to cases of BAV. Here, we show that targeted deletion of Gata5 in mice leads to hypoplastic hearts and partially penetrant BAV formation. Endocardial cell–specific inactivation of Gata5 led to BAV, similar to that observed in Gata5–/– mice. In all cases, the observed BAVs resulted from fusion of the right-coronary and noncoronary leaflets, the subtype associated with the more severe valve dysfunction in humans. Neither endocardial cell proliferation nor cushion formation was altered in the absence of Gata5. Rather, defective endocardial cell differentiation, resulting from the deregulation of several components of the Notch pathway and other important endocardial cell regulators, may be the underlying mechanism of disease. The results unravel a critical cell-autonomous role for endocardial Gata5 in aortic valve formation and identify GATA5 as a potential gene responsible for congenital heart disease in humans. Mice with mutated Gata5 alleles represent unique models to dissect the mechanisms underlying degenerative aortic valve disease and to develop much-needed preventive and therapeutic interventions.
Brigitte Laforest, Gregor Andelfinger, Mona Nemer