Proper control of the temporal onset of cellular differentiation is critical for regulating cell lineage decisions and morphogenesis during development. Pbx homeodomain transcription factors have emerged as important regulators of cellular differentiation. We previously showed, by using antisense morpholino knockdown, that Pbx factors are needed for the timely activation of myocardial differentiation in zebrafish. In order to gain further insight into the roles of Pbx factors in heart development, we show here that zebrafish pbx4
mutant embryos exhibit delayed onset of myocardial differentiation, such as delayed activation of tnnt2a
expression in early cardiomyocytes in the anterior lateral plate mesoderm. We also observe delayed myocardial morphogenesis and dysmorphic patterning of the ventricle and atrium, consistent with our previous Pbx knock-down studies. In addition, we find that pbx4
mutant larvae have aberrant outflow tracts and defective expression of the proepicardial marker tbx18
. Finally, we present evidence for Pbx expression in cardiomyocyte precursors as well as heterogeneous Pbx expression among the pan-cytokeratin-expressing proepicardial cells near the developing ventricle. In summary, our data show that Pbx4 is required for the proper temporal activation of myocardial differentiation and establish a basis for studying additional roles of Pbx factors in heart development.
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