Malformations involving the large arteries that exit the heart (e.g. """"""""the great vessels"""""""") are common causes of congenital cardiovascular defects (CCDs). In most circumstances, the genetic basis for these abnormalities has not been identified. During embryogenesis, the great vessels arise from six pairs of bilaterally symmetrical arteries embedded within the pharyngeal arches that undergo extensive remodeling to produce the complex pattern present at birth. Although the remodeling aspects have been extensively studied, the developmental origin of pharyngeal arch arteries (PAAs) and the genetic programs regulating their specification remain elusive. As severe great vessel defects are incompatible with life and milder deficiencies cause CCDs, our long-term goal is to elucidate the cellular source of PAA endothelium and identify genetic pathways mediating PAA establishment to potentially identify novel human disease genes. The zebrafish model organism allows for unparalleled real-time visualization and genetic dissection of PAA development. Through examination of a novel Tg(nkx2.5::ZsYellow) reporter line, we discovered ZsYellow fluorescence in PAA endothelium. This observation was surprising as nkx2.5 transcripts are not detected in this population. Based on these data, we postulate that PAA endothelium derives from an earlier nkx2.5+ cellular source in which ZsYellow fluorescence has persisted. Although completely unexplored, this hypothesis is supported by traditional nkx2.5 cre/loxP lineage tracing in mice. Thus, it is likely that nkx2.5 plays a conserved, yet heretofore unrecognized, role in great vessel establishment that warrants further investigation. Our preliminary data also demonstrate that nkx2.5 and a requisite TGF2 pathway component, Latent TGF2 Binding Protein 3 (LTBP3), are required for PAA development, but dispensable for induction of the remaining vasculature. Based on compelling preliminary data that include genetic lineage tracing, loss-of-function, and gene expression studies, I propose to test the hypothesis that LTBP3-mediated TGF2 signaling from the second heart field (SHF) promotes endothelial differentiation of nkx2.5-expressing PAA progenitors. Having developed new reagents for illuminating nkx2.5+ progenitors and their derivatives, our lab has the unique opportunity to directly test this hypothesis. As PAA defects cause CCDs or embryonic lethality, the proposed studies are significant for improved therapeutic approaches.

Public Health Relevance

The great arteries are large blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart. Severe great artery defects are incompatible with life and milder deficiencies cause congenital cardiovascular malformations (CCMs). The long-term goal of our research is to elucidate the cellular source of the great arteries and identify new genes required for their formation to potentially identify novel human disease loci.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Research Project (R01)
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Cardiovascular Differentiation and Development Study Section (CDD)
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Schramm, Charlene A
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Massachusetts General Hospital
United States
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Paffett-Lugassy, Noelle; Novikov, Natasha; Jeffrey, Spencer et al. (2017) Unique developmental trajectories and genetic regulation of ventricular and outflow tract progenitors in the zebrafish second heart field. Development 144:4616-4624
Nevis, Kathleen; Obregon, Pablo; Walsh, Conor et al. (2013) Tbx1 is required for second heart field proliferation in zebrafish. Dev Dyn 242:550-9
Paffett-Lugassy, Noƫlle; Singh, Reena; Nevis, Kathleen R et al. (2013) Heart field origin of great vessel precursors relies on nkx2.5-mediated vasculogenesis. Nat Cell Biol 15:1362-9
Guner-Ataman, Burcu; Paffett-Lugassy, Noelle; Adams, Meghan S et al. (2013) Zebrafish second heart field development relies on progenitor specification in anterior lateral plate mesoderm and nkx2.5 function. Development 140:1353-63