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Dev Biol. 2009 Apr 15;328(2):472-82. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.02.010. Epub 2009 Feb 20.

Differential requirement for BMP signaling in atrial and ventricular lineages establishes cardiac chamber proportionality.

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Developmental Genetics Program and Department of Cell Biology, Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine, Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.


The function of an organ relies upon the proper relative proportions of its individual operational components. For example, effective embryonic circulation requires the appropriate relative sizes of each of the distinct pumps created by the atrial and ventricular cardiac chambers. Although the differences between atrial and ventricular cardiomyocytes are well established, little is known about the mechanisms regulating production of proportional numbers of each cell type. We find that mutation of the zebrafish type I BMP receptor gene alk8 causes reduction of atrial size without affecting the ventricle. Loss of atrial tissue is evident in the lateral mesoderm prior to heart tube formation and results from the inhibition of BMP signaling during cardiac progenitor specification stages. Comparison of the effects of decreased and increased BMP signaling further demonstrates that atrial cardiomyocyte production correlates with levels of BMP signaling while ventricular cardiomyocyte production is less susceptible to manipulation of BMP signaling. Additionally, mosaic analysis provides evidence for a cell-autonomous requirement for BMP signaling during cardiomyocyte formation and chamber fate assignment. Together, our studies uncover a new role for BMP signaling in the regulation of chamber size, supporting a model in which differential reception of cardiac inductive signals establishes chamber proportion.

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