Stainier DY, Lee RK, Fishman MC. 1993. Cardiovascular development in the zebrafish. I. Myocardial fate map and heart tube formation. Development (Cambridge, England). 119(1):31-40. Pubmed: 8275863


We have analyzed the origin of cardiac progenitors in the zebrafish embryo by injection of single blastomeres with a lineage tracer dye, and examined the formation of the zebrafish heart tube by serial sectioning of immunostained embryos. At the 512-cell stage (early blastula), most cardiac progenitors lie in a marginal zone that extends from 90 degrees longitude (midway between the future dorsal and ventral axis) through 180 degrees longitude (the future ventral axis) to 270 degrees longitude. By focusing on myocardial progenitors located at 90 degrees (and 270 degrees) longitude, we found that a single cell injected in the early blastula can contribute progeny to both the atrium and ventricle. A cell injected in the midblastula contributes progeny to either the atrium or ventricle, but not both. This analysis suggests that, at least for these myocardial progenitors, the atrial and ventricular lineages separate in the midblastula. Precardiac cells involute early during gastrulation and turn towards the animal pole with other early involuting cells. These cardiogenic cells reach the embryonic axis around the 8-somite stage, and there they coalesce to form a pair of myocardial tubular primordia on either side of the midline. By the 21-somite stage, the tropomyosin-immunoreactive myocardial tubes have moved closer to each other, and a distinct group of cells, the endocardial progenitor cells, sits medially between them. The myocardial tubes then fuse to enclose the endocardial cells and form the definitive heart tube. By 22 hours postfertilization (26-somite stage), the heart tube is clearly beating. The regionalization of cardiac myosin heavy chain expression distinguishes the cardiac chambers at this stage, although they are not morphologically delineated until 36 hours. This work shows that cardiogenic regions can be identified in the early blastula, and that chamber restriction seems to arise in the midblastula. Additionally, it provides the basis for embryological perturbation at the single cell level, as well as for the genetic analysis of heart tube formation in the zebrafish.

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Photo of Mark C. Fishman

Mark C. Fishman’s group studies the heart-brain connection. They employ a range of genetic, developmental, and neurobiological tools in zebrafish to understand what the heart tells the brain, and how critical internal sensory systems adjust homeostatic and somatic behaviors, including social interactions.

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