Gon4l/Udu regulates cardiomyocyte proliferation and maintenance of ventricular chamber identity during zebrafish development

Terin E. Budine, Carmen de Sena-Tomás, Margot L.K. Williams, Diane S. Sepich, Kimara L. Targoff, Lila Solnica-Krezel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Vertebrate heart development requires spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression to specify cardiomyocytes, increase the cardiomyocyte population through proliferation, and to establish and maintain atrial and ventricular cardiac chamber identities. The evolutionarily conserved chromatin factor Gon4-like (Gon4l), encoded by the zebrafish ugly duckling (udu) locus, has previously been implicated in cell proliferation, cell survival, and specification of mesoderm-derived tissues including blood and somites, but its role in heart formation has not been studied. Here we report two distinct roles of Gon4l/Udu in heart development: regulation of cell proliferation and maintenance of ventricular identity. We show that zygotic loss of udu expression causes a significant reduction in cardiomyocyte number at one day post fertilization that becomes exacerbated during later development. We present evidence that the cardiomyocyte deficiency in udu mutants results from reduced cell proliferation, unlike hematopoietic deficiencies attributed to TP53-dependent apoptosis. We also demonstrate that expression of the G1/S-phase cell cycle regulator, cyclin E2 (ccne2), is reduced in udu mutant hearts, and that the Gon4l protein associates with regulatory regions of the ccne2 gene during early embryogenesis. Furthermore, udu mutant hearts exhibit a decrease in the proportion of ventricular cardiomyocytes compared to atrial cardiomyocytes, concomitant with progressive reduction of nkx2.5 expression. We further demonstrate that udu and nkx2.5 interact to maintain the proportion of ventricular cardiomyocytes during development. However, we find that ectopic expression of nkx2.5 is not sufficient to restore ventricular chamber identity suggesting that Gon4l regulates cardiac chamber patterning via multiple pathways. Together, our findings define a novel role for zygotically-expressed Gon4l in coordinating cardiomyocyte proliferation and chamber identity maintenance during cardiac development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-234
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2020


  • Chamber identity
  • Heart development
  • Proliferation
  • Ugly duckling (udu)
  • nkx2.5


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