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Keywords:

  • zebrafish heart;
  • atrioventricular valve;
  • trabeculation;
  • coronary vessel;
  • bulbus arteriosus;
  • myocytes;
  • cardiac function;
  • blood pressure

Abstract

Zebrafish has become a popular model for the study of cardiovascular development. We performed morphologic analysis on 3 months postfertilization zebrafish hearts (n ≥ 20) with scanning electron microscopy, hematoxylin and eosin staining and Masson's trichrome staining, and morphometric analysis on cell organelles with transmission electron photomicrographs. We measured atrial, ventricular, ventral, and dorsal aortic blood pressures (n ≥ 5) with a servonull system. The atrioventricular orifice was positioned on the dorsomedial side of the anterior ventricle, surmounted by the single-chambered atrium. The atrioventricular valve was free of tension apparati but supported by papillary bands to prevent retrograde flow. The ventricle was spanned with fine trabeculae perpendicular to the compact layer and perforated with a subepicardial network of coronary arteries, which originated from the efferent branchial arteries by means of the main coronary vessel. Ventricular myocytes were larger than those in the atrium (P < 0.05) with abundant mitochondria close to the sarcolemmal. Sarcoplasmic reticulum was sparse in zebrafish ventricle. Bulbus arteriosus was located anterior to the ventricle, and functioned as an elastic reservoir to absorb the rapid rise of pressure during ventricular contraction. The dense matrix of collagen interspersed across the entire bulbus arteriosus exemplified the characteristics of vasculature smooth muscle. There were pressure gradients from atrium to ventricle, and from ventral to dorsal aorta, indicating that the valves and the branchial arteries, respectively, were points of resistance to blood flow. These data serve as a framework for structure-function investigations of the zebrafish cardiovascular system. Anat Rec 264:1–12, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.