Isolation and in vitro culture of primary cardiomyocytes from adult zebrafish hearts

Nat Protoc. 2013 Apr;8(4):800-9. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2013.041. Epub 2013 Mar 28.


This protocol describes how to isolate primary cardiomyocytes from adult zebrafish hearts and culture them for up to 4 weeks, thereby using them as an alternative to in vivo experiments. After collagenase digestion of the ventricle, cells are exposed to increasing calcium concentrations in order to obtain high-purity cardiomyocytes. The whole isolation process can be accomplished in 4-5 h. The culture conditions we established allow the cells to preserve their mature sarcomeric integrity and contractile properties. Furthermore, adult zebrafish cardiomyocytes in culture, similarly to zebrafish in vivo heart regeneration, undergo partial dedifferentiation and, in contrast to their mammalian counterparts, are able to proliferate. Our protocol enables the study of structural and functional properties in close-to-native cardiomyocytes and allows the application of in vitro techniques and assays that are not feasible to perform in living animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / pharmacology
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cell Dedifferentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Separation / methods*
  • Culture Media
  • Fibrin / chemistry
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology*
  • Zebrafish*


  • Culture Media
  • Fibrin
  • Calcium