Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA; Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
MEF2C is a member of the highly conserved MEF2 family of transcription factors and is a key regulator of cardiovascular development. In mice, Mef2c is expressed in the developing heart and vasculature, including the endothelium. Loss of Mef2c function in germline knockout mice leads to early embryonic demise and profound developmental abnormalities in the cardiovascular system. Previous attempts to uncover the cause of embryonic lethality by specifically disrupting Mef2c function in the heart or vasculature failed to recapitulate the global Mef2c knockout phenotype and instead resulted in relatively minor defects that did not compromise viability or result in significant cardiovascular defects. However, previous studies examined the requirement of Mef2c in the myocardial and endothelial lineages using Cre lines that begin to be expressed after the expression of Mef2c has already commenced. Here, we tested the requirement of Mef2c in the myocardial and endothelial lineages using conditional knockout approaches in mice with Cre lines that deleted Mef2c prior to onset of its expression in embryonic development. We found that deletion of Mef2c in the early myocardial lineage using Nkx2-5Cre resulted in cardiac and vascular abnormalities that were indistinguishable from the defects in the global Mef2c knockout. In contrast, early deletion of Mef2c in the vascular endothelium using an Etv2::Cre line active prior to the onset of Mef2c expression resulted in viable offspring that were indistinguishable from wild type controls with no overt defects in vascular development, despite nearly complete early deletion of Mef2c in the vascular endothelium. Thus, these studies support the idea that the requirement of MEF2C for vascular development is secondary to its requirement in the heart and suggest that the observed failure in vascular remodeling in Mef2c knockout mice results from defective heart function.