Opitz, R., Maquet, E., Huisken, J., Antonica, F., Trubiroha, A., Pottier, G., Janssens, V., and Costagliola, S. (2012) Transgenic zebrafish illuminate the dynamics of thyroid morphogenesis and its relationship to cardiovascular development. Developmental Biology. 372(2):203-216.
Among the various organs derived from foregut endoderm, the thyroid gland is unique in that major morphogenic events such as budding from foregut endoderm, descent into subpharyngeal mesenchyme and growth expansion occur in close proximity to cardiovascular tissues. To date, research on thyroid organogenesis was missing one vital tool—a transgenic model that allows to track the dynamic changes in thyroid size, shape and location relative to adjacent cardiovascular tissues in live embryos. In this study, we generated a novel transgenic zebrafish line, tg(tg:mCherry), in which robust and thyroid-specific expression of a membrane version of mCherry enables live imaging of thyroid development in embryos from budding stage throughout formation of functional thyroid follicles. By using various double transgenic models in which EGFP expression additionally labels cardiovascular structures, a high coordination was revealed between thyroid organogenesis and cardiovascular development. Early thyroid development was found to proceed in intimate contact with the distal ventricular myocardium and live imaging confirmed that thyroid budding from the pharyngeal floor is tightly coordinated with the descend of the heart. Four-dimensional imaging of live embryos by selective plane illumination microscopy and 3D-reconstruction of confocal images of stained embryos yielded novel insights into the role of specific pharyngeal vessels, such as the hypobranchial artery (HA), in guiding late thyroid expansion along the pharyngeal midline. An important role of the HA was corroborated by the detailed examination of thyroid development in various zebrafish models showing defective cardiovascular development. In combination, our results from live imaging as well es from 3D-reconstruction of thyroid development in tg(tg:mCherry) embryos provided a first dynamic view of late thyroid organogenesis in zebrafish—a critical resource for the design of future studies addressing the molecular mechanisms of these thyroid-vasculature interactions.