Novel exons in the Tbx5 gene locus generate protein isoforms with distinct expression domains and function [Gene Regulation]

January 26th, 2015 by Yamak, A., Georges, R. O., Sheikh-Hassani, M., Morin, M., Komati, H., Nemer, M.

TBX5 is the gene mutated in Holt-Oram Syndrome, an autosomal dominant disorder with complex heart and limb deformities. Its protein product is a member of the T-box family of transcription factors and an evolutionary conserved dosage sensitive regulator of heart and limb development. Understanding TBX5 regulation is therefore of paramount importance. Here we uncover the existence of novel exons and provide evidence that TBX5 activity may be extensively regulated through alternative splicing to produce protein isoforms with differing N- and C-terminal domains. These isoforms are also present in human heart indicative of an evolutionary conserved regulatory mechanism. The newly identified isoforms have different transcriptional properties and can antagonize TBX5a target gene activation. Droplet digital PCR as well as immunohistochemistry with isoform specific antibodies reveal differential as well as overlapping expression domains. In particular, we find that the predominant isoform in skeletal myoblasts is Tbx5c and we show that it is dramatically upregulated in differentiating myotubes and is essential for myotube formation. Mechanistically, TBX5c antagonizes TBX5a regulation of pro-proliferative signals such as IGF-1, FGF-10 and BMP4. The results provide new insight into Tbx5 regulation and function that will further our understanding of its role in health and disease. The finding of new exons in the Tbx5 locus may also be relevant to mutational screening especially in the 30% of Holt-Oram Syndrome patients with no mutations in the known TBX5a exons.