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PLoS Genet. 2013 Jun;9(6):e1003597. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003597. Epub 2013 Jun 27.

Multiplexin promotes heart but not aorta morphogenesis by polarized enhancement of slit/robo activity at the heart lumen.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


The Drosophila heart tube represents a structure that similarly to vertebrates' primary heart tube exhibits a large lumen; the mechanisms promoting heart tube morphology in both Drosophila and vertebrates are poorly understood. We identified Multiplexin (Mp), the Drosophila orthologue of mammalian Collagen-XV/XVIII, and the only structural heart-specific protein described so far in Drosophila, as necessary and sufficient for shaping the heart tube lumen, but not that of the aorta. Mp is expressed specifically at the stage of heart tube closure, in a polarized fashion, uniquely along the cardioblasts luminal membrane, and its absence results in an extremely small heart tube lumen. Importantly, Mp forms a protein complex with Slit, and interacts genetically with both slit and robo in the formation of the heart tube. Overexpression of Mp in cardioblasts promotes a large heart lumen in a Slit-dependent manner. Moreover, Mp alters Slit distribution, and promotes the formation of multiple Slit endocytic vesicles, similarly to the effect of overexpression of Robo in these cells. Our data are consistent with Mp-dependent enhancement of Slit/Robo activity and signaling, presumably by affecting Slit protein stabilization, specifically at the lumen side of the heart tube. This activity results with a Slit-dependent, local reduction of F-actin levels at the heart luminal membrane, necessary for forming the large heart tube lumen. Consequently, lack of Mp results in decreased diastolic capacity, leading to reduced heart contractility, as measured in live fly hearts. In summary, these findings show that the polarized localization of Mp controls the direction, timing, and presumably the extent of Slit/Robo activity and signaling at the luminal membrane of the heart cardioblasts. This regulation is essential for the morphogenetic changes that sculpt the heart tube in Drosophila, and possibly in forming the vertebrates primary heart tube.

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