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Dev Biol. 2011 Jun 1;354(1):123-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.03.028. Epub 2011 Apr 3.

Mef2cb regulates late myocardial cell addition from a second heart field-like population of progenitors in zebrafish.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Two populations of cells, termed the first and second heart field, drive heart growth during chick and mouse development. The zebrafish has become a powerful model for vertebrate heart development, partly due to the evolutionary conservation of developmental pathways in this process. Here we provide evidence that the zebrafish possesses a conserved homolog to the murine second heart field. We developed a photoconversion assay to observe and quantify the dynamic late addition of myocardial cells to the zebrafish arterial pole. We define an extra-cardiac region immediately posterior to the arterial pole, which we term the late ventricular region. The late ventricular region has cardiogenic properties, expressing myocardial markers such as vmhc and nkx2.5, but does not express a full complement of differentiated cardiomyocyte markers, lacking myl7 expression. We show that mef2cb, a zebrafish homolog of the mouse second heart field marker Mef2c, is expressed in the late ventricular region, and is necessary for late myocardial addition to the arterial pole. FGF signaling after heart cone formation is necessary for mef2cb expression, the establishment of the late ventricular region, and late myocardial addition to the arterial pole. Our study demonstrates that zebrafish heart growth shows more similarities to murine heart growth than previously thought. Further, as congenital heart disease is often associated with defects in second heart field development, the embryological and genetic advantages of the zebrafish model can be applied to study the vertebrate second heart field.

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