A major feature of Saethre-Chotzen syndrome is coronal craniosynostosis, the fusion of the frontal and parietal bones at the coronal suture. It is caused by heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in either of the bHLH transcription factors TWIST1 and TCF12. Although compound heterozygous Tcf12; Twist1 mice display severe coronal synostosis, the individual role of Tcf12 had remained unexplored. Here, we show that Tcf12 controls several key processes in calvarial development, including the rate of frontal and parietal bone growth, and the boundary between sutural and osteogenic cells. Genetic analysis supports an embryonic requirement for Tcf12 in suture formation, as combined deletion of Tcf12 in embryonic neural crest and mesoderm, but not in postnatal suture mesenchyme, disrupts the coronal suture. We also detected asymmetric distribution of mesenchymal cells on opposing sides of the wild-type frontal and parietal bones, which prefigures later bone overlap at the sutures. In Tcf12 mutants, reduced asymmetry is associated with bones meeting end-on-end, possibly contributing to synostosis. Our results support embryonic requirements of Tcf12 in proper formation of the overlapping coronal suture.

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