Human mutations in TBX5, a gene encoding a T-box transcription factor, and SALL4, a gene encoding a zinc-finger transcription factor, cause similar upper limb and heart defects. Here we show that Tbx5 regulates Sall4 expression in the developing mouse forelimb and heart; mice heterozygous for a gene trap allele of Sall4 show limb and heart defects that model human disease. Tbx5 and Sall4 interact both positively and negatively to finely regulate patterning and morphogenesis of the anterior forelimb and heart. Thus, a positive and negative feed-forward circuit between Tbx5 and Sall4 ensures precise patterning of embryonic limb and heart and provides a unifying mechanism for heart/hand syndromes.
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