Background Genetic studies of cardiomyopathy and heart failure have limited throughput in mammalian models. Adult zebrafish have been recently pursued as a vertebrate model with higher throughput, but genetic conservation must be tested.
Methods and results We conducted transcriptome analysis of zebrafish heart and searched for fish homologues of 51 known human dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)-associated genes. We also identified genes with high cardiac expression and genes with differential expression between embryonic and adult stages. Among tested genes, 30 had a single zebrafish orthologue, 14 had 2 homologues, and 5 had 3 or more homologues. By analyzing the expression data on the basis of cardiac abundance and enrichment hypotheses, we identified a single zebrafish gene for 14 of 19 multiple-homologue genes and 2 zebrafish homologues of high priority for ACTC1. Of note, our data suggested vmhc and vmhcl as functional zebrafish orthologues for human MYH6 and MYH7, respectively, which are established molecular markers for cardiac remodeling.
Conclusions Most known genes for human DCM have a corresponding zebrafish orthologue, which supports the use of zebrafish as a conserved vertebrate model. Definition of the cardiac transcriptome and fetal gene program will facilitate systems biology studies of DCM in zebrafish.