[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Heart formation requires the fusion of bilateral cardiomyocyte populations as they move towards the embryonic midline. The bHLH transcription factor Hand2 is essential for cardiac fusion; however, the effector genes that execute this function of Hand2 are unknown. Here, we provide in zebrafish the first evidence for a downstream component of the Hand2 pathway that mediates cardiac morphogenesis. Although hand2 is expressed in cardiomyocytes, mosaic analysis demonstrates that it plays a non-autonomous role in regulating cardiomyocyte movement. Gene expression profiles reveal heightened expression of fibronectin 1 (fn1) in hand2 mutant embryos. Reciprocally, overexpression of hand2 leads to decreased Fibronectin levels. Furthermore, reduction of fn1 function enables rescue of cardiac fusion in hand2 mutants: bilateral cardiomyocyte populations merge and exhibit improved tissue architecture, albeit without major changes in apicobasal polarity. Together, our data provide a novel example of a tissue creating a favorable environment for its morphogenesis: the Hand2 pathway establishes an appropriate environment for cardiac fusion through negative modulation of Fn1 levels.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Developing organs acquire a specific three-dimensional form that ensures their normal function. Cardiac function, for example, depends upon properly shaped chambers that emerge from a primitive heart tube. The cellular mechanisms that control chamber shape are not yet understood. Here, we demonstrate that chamber morphology develops via changes in cell morphology, and we determine key regulatory influences on this process. Focusing on the development of the ventricular chamber in zebrafish, we show that cardiomyocyte cell shape changes underlie the formation of characteristic chamber curvatures. In particular, cardiomyocyte elongation occurs within a confined area that forms the ventricular outer curvature. Because cardiac contractility and blood flow begin before chambers emerge, cardiac function has the potential to influence chamber curvature formation. Employing zebrafish mutants with functional deficiencies, we find that blood flow and contractility independently regulate cell shape changes in the emerging ventricle. Reduction of circulation limits the extent of cardiomyocyte elongation; in contrast, disruption of sarcomere formation releases limitations on cardiomyocyte dimensions. Thus, the acquisition of normal cardiomyocyte morphology requires a balance between extrinsic and intrinsic physical forces. Together, these data establish regionally confined cell shape change as a cellular mechanism for chamber emergence and as a link in the relationship between form and function during organ morphogenesis.