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Dev Biol. 2006 Feb 15;290(2):265-76. Epub 2006 Jan 10.

Solving an enigma: arterial pole development in the zebrafish heart.

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Medical University of South Carolina, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology, 173 Ashley Avenue, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


It is a widely held belief that the arterial pole of the zebrafish heart is unusual among models of comparative cardiogenesis. This is based, in part, on the report that the bulbus arteriosus undergoes a striated-to-smooth muscle phenotypic transition during development. An implication of this is that the zebrafish, a model almost ubiquitously accepted in other fields of comparative biology, may be poorly suited to the study of conotruncal abnormalities in human disease. However, while the use of atrioventricular-specific molecular markers has allowed extensive characterization of the development of the atrium and ventricle, the lack of any bulbus-specific markers has meant that this region of the zebrafish heart is poorly characterized and quite possibly misunderstood. We have discovered that the fluorescent nitric oxide indicator 4,5-diaminofluorescein diacetate (DAF-2DA) specifically labels the bulbus arteriosus throughout development from approximately 48 h post-fertilization. Therefore, using DAF-2DA and an immunohistochemical approach, we attempted to further characterize the development of the bulbus. We have concluded that no such phenotypic transition occurs, that contrary to current thinking, aspects of zebrafish arterial pole development are evolutionarily conserved, and that the bulbus should not be considered a chamber, being more akin to the arterial trunk(s) of higher vertebrates.

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