Werdich, A.A., Brzezinski, A., Jeyaraj, D., Ficker, E., Wan, X., McDermott, B.M., Sabeh, M.K., MacRae, C.A., and Rosenbaum, D.S. (2012) The zebrafish as a novel animal model to study the molecular mechanisms of mechano-electrical feedback in the heart. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. 110(2-3):154-165.
Altered mechanical loading of the heart leads to hypertrophy, decompensated heart failure and fatal arrhythmias. However, the molecular mechanisms that link mechanical and electrical dysfunction remain poorly understood. Growing evidence suggest that ventricular electrical remodeling (VER) is a process that can be induced by altered mechanical stress, creating persistent electrophysiological changes that predispose the heart to life-threatening arrhythmias. While VER is clearly a physiological property of the human heart, as evidenced by “T wave memory”, it is also thought to occur in a variety of pathological states associated with altered ventricular activation such as bundle branch block, myocardial infarction, and cardiac pacing. Animal models that are currently being used for investigating stretch-induced VER have significant limitations. The zebrafish has recently emerged as an attractive animal model for studying cardiovascular disease and could overcome some of these limitations. Owing to its extensively sequenced genome, high conservation of gene function, and the comprehensive genetic resources that are available in this model, the zebrafish may provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms that drive detrimental electrical remodeling in response to stretch. Here, we have established a zebrafish model to study mechano-electrical feedback in the heart, which combines efficient genetic manipulation with high-precision stretch and high-resolution electrophysiology. In this model, only 90 min of ventricular stretch caused VER and recapitulated key features of VER found previously in the mammalian heart. Our data suggest that the zebrafish model is a powerful platform for investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying mechano-electrical feedback and VER in the heart.
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