Functional Heterogeneity within the Developing Zebrafish Epicardium.
Weinberger M., Simões FC., Patient R., Sauka-Spengler T., Riley PR.
The epicardium is essential during cardiac development, homeostasis, and repair, and yet fundamental insights into its underlying cell biology, notably epicardium formation, lineage heterogeneity, and functional cross-talk with other cell types in the heart, are currently lacking. In this study, we investigated epicardial heterogeneity and the functional diversity of discrete epicardial subpopulations in the developing zebrafish heart. Single-cell RNA sequencing uncovered three epicardial subpopulations with specific genetic programs and distinctive spatial distribution. Perturbation of unique gene signatures uncovered specific functions associated with each subpopulation and established epicardial roles in cell adhesion, migration, and chemotaxis as a mechanism for recruitment of leukocytes into the heart. Understanding which mechanisms epicardial cells employ to establish a functional epicardium and how they communicate with other cardiovascular cell types during development will bring us closer to repairing cellular relationships that are disrupted during cardiovascular disease.