Thomas Juan, Maëlle Bellec, Bárbara Cardoso, Héloïse Athéa, Nana Fukuda, Marga Albu, Stefan Günther, Mario Looso, Didier Y. R. Stainier

Control of cardiac contractions using Cre-lox and degron strategies in zebrafish

  • Multidisciplinary

Cardiac contractions and hemodynamic forces are essential for organ development and homeostasis. Control over cardiac contractions can be achieved pharmacologically or optogenetically. However, these approaches lack specificity or require direct access to the heart. Here, we compare two genetic approaches to control cardiac contractions by modulating the levels of the essential sarcomeric protein Tnnt2a in zebrafish. We first recombine a newly generated tnnt2a floxed allele using multiple lines expressing Cre under the control of cardiomyocyte-specific promoters, and show that it does not recapitulate the tnnt2a/silent heart mutant phenotype in embryos. We show that this lack of early cardiac contraction defects is due, at least in part, to the long half-life of tnnt2a mRNA, which masks the gene deletion effects until the early larval stages. We then generate an endogenous Tnnt2a-eGFP fusion line that we use together with the zGRAD system to efficiently degrade Tnnt2a in all cardiomyocytes. Using single-cell transcriptomics, we find that Tnnt2a depletion leads to cardiac phenotypes similar to those observed in tnnt2a mutants, with a loss of blood and pericardial flow-dependent cell types. Furthermore, we achieve conditional degradation of Tnnt2a-eGFP by splitting the zGRAD protein into two fragments that, when combined with the cpFRB2-FKBP system, can be reassembled upon rapamycin treatment. Thus, this Tnnt2a degradation line enables non-invasive control of cardiac contractions with high spatial and temporal specificity and will help further understand how they shape organ development and homeostasis.

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