Chen, J.-N., van Eeden, F.J.M., Warren, K.S., Chin, A., Nüsslein-Volhard, C., Haffter, P., and Fishman, M.C. (1997) Left-right pattern of cardiac BMP4 may drive asymmetry of the heart in zebrafish. Development (Cambridge, England). 124(21):4373-4382.
The first evident break in left-right symmetry of the primitive zebrafish heart tube is the shift in pattern of BMP4 expression from radially symmetric to left-predominant. The midline heart tube then 'jogs' to the left and subsequently loops to the right. We examined 279 mutations, affecting more than 200 genes, and found 21 mutations that perturb this process. Some cause BMP4 to remain radially symmetric. Others randomize the asymmetric BMP4 pattern. Retention of BMP4 symmetry is associated with failure to jog: right-predominance of the BMP4 pattern is associated with reversal of the direction of jogging and looping. Raising BMP4 diffusely throughout the heart, via sonic hedgehog injection, or the blocking of its action by injection of a dominant negative BMP4 receptor, prevent directional jogging or looping. The genes crucial to directing cardiac asymmetry include a subset of those needed for patterning the dorsoventral axis and for notochord and ventral spinal cord development. Thus, the pattern of cardiac BMP4 appears to be in the pathway by which the heart interprets lateralizing signals from the midline.