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J Cell Mol Med. 2018 Mar;22(3):2007-2017. doi: 10.1111/jcmm.13408. Epub 2017 Dec 19.

Neuregulin-1 is essential for nerve plexus formation during cardiac maturation.

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McAllister Heart Institute, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.


The Neuregulin-1 (Nrg1)/ErbB pathway plays multiple, critical roles in early cardiac and nervous system development and has been implicated in both heart and nerve repair processes. However, the early embryonic lethality of mouse Nrg1 mutants precludes an analysis of Nrg1's function in later cardiac development and homeostasis. In this study, we generated a novel nrg1 null allele targeting all known isoforms of nrg1 in zebrafish and examined cardiac structural and functional parameters throughout development. We found that zebrafish nrg1 mutants instead survived until young adult stages when they exhibited reduced survivorship. This coincided with structural and functional defects in the developing juvenile and young adult hearts, as demonstrated by reduced intracardiac myocardial density, cardiomyocyte cell number, swimming performance and dysregulated heartbeat. Interestingly, nrg1 mutant hearts were missing long axons on the ventricle surface by standard length (SL) 5 mm, which preceded juvenile and adult cardiac defects. Given that the autonomic nervous system normally exerts fine control of cardiac output through this nerve plexus, these data suggest that Nrg1 may play a critical role in establishing the cardiac nerve plexus such that inadequate innervation leads to deficits in cardiac maturation, function and survival.


cardiac innervation; cardiac maturation; neuregulin-1; zebrafish

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