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Dev Biol. 2012 Feb 15;362(2):242-53. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2011.12.005. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Multiple influences of blood flow on cardiomyocyte hypertrophy in the embryonic zebrafish heart.

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Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


Cardiomyocyte hypertrophy is a complex cellular behavior involving coordination of cell size expansion and myofibril content increase. Here, we investigate the contribution of cardiomyocyte hypertrophy to cardiac chamber emergence, the process during which the primitive heart tube transforms into morphologically distinct chambers and increases its contractile strength. Focusing on the emergence of the zebrafish ventricle, we observed trends toward increased cell surface area and myofibril content. To examine the extent to which these trends reflect coordinated hypertrophy of individual ventricular cardiomyocytes, we developed a method for tracking cell surface area changes and myofibril dynamics in live embryos. Our data reveal a previously unappreciated heterogeneity of ventricular cardiomyocyte behavior during chamber emergence: although cardiomyocyte hypertrophy was prevalent, many cells did not increase their surface area or myofibril content during the observed timeframe. Despite the heterogeneity of cell behavior, we often found hypertrophic cells neighboring each other. Next, we examined the impact of blood flow on the regulation of cardiomyocyte behavior during this phase of development. When blood flow through the ventricle was reduced, cell surface area expansion and myofibril content increase were both dampened, and the behavior of neighboring cells did not seem coordinated. Together, our studies suggest a model in which hemodynamic forces have multiple influences on cardiac chamber emergence: promoting both cardiomyocyte enlargement and myofibril maturation, enhancing the extent of cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, and facilitating the coordination of neighboring cell behaviors.

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