Twisting of the heart tube during cardiac looping is a tbx5-dependent and tissue-intrinsic process
Organ laterality refers to the Left-Right (LR) asymmetry in disposition and conformation of internal organs, established in the developing embryo. The heart is the first organ to display visible LR asymmetries as it is positioned to the left side of the midline and undergoes rightward looping morphogenesis. Cardiac looping morphogenesis is tightly controlled by a combination of heart-intrinsic and -extrinsic mechanisms. As the mechanisms that drive cardiac looping are not well understood, we
... formed a forward genetic screen for zebrafish mutants with defective heart looping. We describe a new loss-of-function allele for tbx5a, which displays normal leftward positioning but defective rightward looping morphogenesis. By using live two-photon confocal imaging to map cardiomyocyte behavior during cardiac looping at a single-cell level we establish that during looping, ventricular and atrial cardiomyocytes rearrange in opposite directions towards the outer curvatures of the chambers. As a consequence, the cardiac chambers twist around the atrioventricular canal resulting in torsion of the heart tube, which is compromised in tbx5a mutants. Manipulations of cardiac looping by chemical treatment and ex vivo culture establishes that the twisting of the heart tube depends on intrinsic mechanisms and is independent from tissue growth by cell addition. Furthermore, the cardiac looping defect in tbx5a mutants is rescued in tbx5a/tbx2b double mutants, indicating that it requires proper tissue patterning. Together, our results establish that cardiac looping in zebrafish involves twisting of the chambers around the AV canal, which requires correct tissue patterning by Tbx5a.