Identification and in silico modeling of enhancers reveals new features of the cardiac differentiation network.
Developmental patterning and tissue formation are regulated through complex generegulatory networks (GRNs) driven through the action of transcription factors (TFs) converging on enhancer elements. Here, as a point of entry to dissect the poorly defined GRN underlying cardiomyocyte differentiation, we apply an integrated approach to identify active enhancers and TFs involved in Drosophila heart development. The Drosophila heart consists of 104 cardiomyocytes, representing less than 0.5% of all cells in the embryo. By modifying BiTS-ChIP for rare cells, we examined H3K4me3 and H3K27ac chromatin landscapes to identifyactive promoters and enhancers specifically in cardiomyocytes. These in vivo data were complemented by a machine learning approach and extensive in vivo validation in transgenic embryos, which identified many new heart enhancers and their associated TF motifs. Our results implicate many new TFs in late stages of heartdevelopment, including Bagpipe, an Nkx3.2 ortholog, which we show is essential for differentiated heart function.