bioRxiv. 2019;[preprint] doi:10.1101/838128
The mature vertebrate heart develops from a simple linear cardiac tube during early development through a series of highly asymmetric morphogenetic processes including cardiac looping and chamber ballooning. While the directionality of heart morphogenesis is partly controlled by embryonic laterality signals, previous studies have suggested that these extrinsic laterality cues interact with tissue-intrinsic signals in the heart to ensure robust asymmetric cardiac morphogenesis. Using live in vivo imaging of zebrafish embryos we describe a left-sided, chamber-specific expansion of the extracellular matrix (ECM) between the myocardium and endocardium at early stages of heart morphogenesis. We use Tomo-seq, a spatial transcriptomic approach, to identify transient and regionalised expression of hyaluronan and proteoglycan link protein 1a (hapln1a), encoding an ECM cross-linking protein, in the heart tube prior to cardiac looping overlapping with regionalised ECM expansion. Loss- and gain-of-function experiments demonstrate that regionalised Hapln1a promotes heart morphogenesis through regional modulation of ECM thickness in the heart tube. Finally, we show that while induction of asymmetric hapln1a expression is independent of embryonic left-right asymmetry, these laterality cues are required to orient the hapln1a-expressing cells asymmetrically along the left-right axis of the heart tube. Together, we propose a model whereby laterality cues position hapln1a expression on the left of the heart tube, and this asymmetric Hapln1a deposition drives ECM asymmetry and subsequently promotes robust asymmetric cardiac morphogenesis.
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