Uncovering the molecular and cellular mechanisms of heart development using the zebrafish

Annu Rev Genet. 2012;46:397-418. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genet-110711-155646. Epub 2012 Sep 4.


Over the past 20 years, the zebrafish has emerged as a powerful model organism for studying cardiac development. Its ability to survive without an active circulation and amenability to forward genetics has led to the identification of numerous mutants whose study has helped elucidate new mechanisms in cardiac development. Furthermore, its transparent, externally developing embryos have allowed detailed cellular analyses of heart development. In this review, we discuss the molecular and cellular processes involved in zebrafish heart development from progenitor specification to development of the valve and the conduction system. We focus on imaging studies that have uncovered the cellular bases of heart development and on zebrafish mutants with cardiac abnormalities whose study has revealed novel molecular pathways in cardiac cell specification and tissue morphogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiac Imaging Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / anatomy & histology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / embryology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Heart / anatomy & histology
  • Heart / embryology
  • Heart / growth & development*
  • Heart Diseases / genetics
  • Heart Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Morphogenesis
  • Myocardial Contraction
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology
  • Zebrafish / embryology*
  • Zebrafish / genetics