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1.  Heart on a Plate: Histological and Functional Assessment of Isolated Adult Zebrafish Hearts Maintained in Culture 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96771.
The zebrafish is increasingly used for cardiovascular genetic and functional studies. We present a novel protocol to maintain and monitor whole isolated beating adult zebrafish hearts in culture for long-term experiments. Excised whole adult zebrafish hearts were transferred directly into culture dishes containing optimized L-15 Leibovitz growth medium and maintained for 5 days. Hearts were assessed daily using video-edge analysis of ventricle function using low power microscopy images. High-throughput histology techniques were used to assess changes in myocardial architecture and cell viability. Mean spontaneous Heart rate (HR, min−1) declined significantly between day 0 and day 1 in culture (96.7±19.5 to 45.2±8.2 min−1, mean±SD, p = 0.001), and thereafter declined more slowly to 27.6±7.2 min−1 on day 5. Ventricle wall motion amplitude (WMA) did not change until day 4 in culture (day 0, 46.7±13.0 µm vs day 4, 16.9±1.9 µm, p = 0.08). Contraction velocity (CV) declined between day 0 and day 3 (35.6±14.8 vs 15.2±5.3 µms−1, respectively, p = 0.012) while relaxation velocity (RV) declined quite rapidly (day 0, 72.5±11.9 vs day 1, 29.5±5.8 µms−1, p = 0.03). HR and WMA responded consistently to isoproterenol from day 0 to day 5 in culture while CV and RV showed less consistent responses to beta-agonist. Cellular architecture and cross-striation pattern of cardiomyocytes remained unchanged up to day 3 in culture and thereafter showed significant deterioration with loss of striation pattern, pyknotic nuclei and cell swelling. Apoptotic markers within the myocardium became increasingly frequent by day 3 in culture. Whole adult zebrafish hearts can be maintained in culture-medium for up to 3 days. However, after day-3 there is significant deterioration in ventricle function and heart rate accompanied by significant histological changes consistent with cell death and loss of cardiomyocyte cell integrity. Further studies are needed to assess whether this preparation can be optimised for longer term survival.
PMCID: PMC4019527  PMID: 24824845
2.  The plaque protein myozap identified as a novel major component of adhering junctions in endothelia of the blood and the lymph vascular systems 
Recently the protein myozap, a 54-kD polypeptide which is not a member of any of the known cytoskeletal and junctional protein multigene families, has been identified as a constituent of the plaques of the composite junctions in the intercalated disks connecting the cardiomyocytes of mammalian hearts. Using a set of novel, highly sensitive and specific antibodies we now report that myozap is also a major constituent of the cytoplasmic plaques of the adherens junctions (AJs) connecting the endothelial cells of the mammalian blood and lymph vascular systems, including the desmoplakin-containing complexus adhaerentes of the virgultar cells of lymph node sinus. In light and electron microscopic immunolocalization experiments we show that myozap colocalizes with several proteins of desmosomal plaques as well as with AJ-specific transmembrane molecules, including VE-cadherin. In biochemical analyses, rigorous immunoprecipitation experiments have revealed N-cadherin, desmoplakin, desmoglein-2, plakophilin-2, plakoglobin and plectin as very stably bound complex partners. We conclude that myozap is a general component of cell–cell junctions not only in the myocardium but also in diverse endothelia of the blood and lymph vascular systems of adult mammals, suggesting that this protein not only serves a specific role in the heart but also a broader set of functions in the vessel systems. We also propose to use myozap as an endothelial cell type marker in diagnoses.
PMCID: PMC3822684  PMID: 21992629
myozap; adherens junctions; endothelial cells; blood vessels; lymphatic vessels
3.  Physiological Benefits of Being Small in a Changing World: Responses of Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) to an Acute Thermal Challenge and a Simulated Capture Event 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39079.
Evidence is building to suggest that both chronic and acute warm temperature exposure, as well as other anthropogenic perturbations, may select for small adult fish within a species. To shed light on this phenomenon, we investigated physiological and anatomical attributes associated with size-specific responses to an acute thermal challenge and a fisheries capture simulation (exercise+air exposure) in maturing male coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Full-size females were included for a sex-specific comparison. A size-specific response in haematology to an acute thermal challenge (from 7 to 20°C at 3°C h−1) was apparent only for plasma potassium, whereby full-size males exhibited a significant increase in comparison with smaller males (‘jacks’). Full-size females exhibited an elevated blood stress response in comparison with full-size males. Metabolic recovery following exhaustive exercise at 7°C was size-specific, with jacks regaining resting levels of metabolism at 9.3±0.5 h post-exercise in comparison with 12.3±0.4 h for full-size fish of both sexes. Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption scaled with body mass in male fish with an exponent of b = 1.20±0.08. Jacks appeared to regain osmoregulatory homeostasis faster than full-size males, and they had higher ventilation rates at 1 h post-exercise. Peak metabolic rate during post-exercise recovery scaled with body mass with an exponent of b∼1, suggesting that the slower metabolic recovery in large fish was not due to limitations in diffusive or convective oxygen transport, but that large fish simply accumulated a greater ‘oxygen debt’ that took longer to pay back at the size-independent peak metabolic rate of ∼6 mg min−1 kg−1. Post-exercise recovery of plasma testosterone was faster in jacks compared with full-size males, suggesting less impairment of the maturation trajectory of smaller fish. Supporting previous studies, these findings suggest that environmental change and non-lethal fisheries interactions have the potential to select for small individuals within fish populations over time.
PMCID: PMC3374769  PMID: 22720035
4.  Mutations with pathogenic potential in proteins located in or at the composite junctions of the intercalated disk connecting mammalian cardiomyocytes: a reference thesaurus for arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathies and for Naxos and Carvajal diseases 
Cell and Tissue Research  2012;348(2):325-333.
In the past decade, an avalanche of findings and reports has correlated arrhythmogenic ventricular cardiomyopathies (ARVC) and Naxos and Carvajal diseases with certain mutations in protein constituents of the special junctions connecting the polar regions (intercalated disks) of mature mammalian cardiomyocytes. These molecules, apparently together with some specific cytoskeletal proteins, are components of (or interact with) composite junctions. Composite junctions contain the amalgamated fusion products of the molecules that, in other cell types and tissues, occur in distinct separate junctions, i.e. desmosomes and adherens junctions. As the pertinent literature is still in an expanding phase and is obviously becoming important for various groups of researchers in basic cell and molecular biology, developmental biology, histology, physiology, cardiology, pathology and genetics, the relevant references so far recognized have been collected and are presented here in the following order: desmocollin-2 (Dsc2, DSC2), desmoglein-2 (Dsg2, DSG2), desmoplakin (DP, DSP), plakoglobin (PG, JUP), plakophilin-2 (Pkp2, PKP2) and some non-desmosomal proteins such as transmembrane protein 43 (TMEM43), ryanodine receptor 2 (RYR2), desmin, lamins A and C, striatin, titin and transforming growth factor-β3 (TGFβ3), followed by a collection of animal models and of reviews, commentaries, collections and comparative studies.
PMCID: PMC3349860  PMID: 22450909
Arrhythmogenic ventricular cardiomyopathy; Carvajal disease; Composite junction; Desmosomes; Intercalated disk; Naxos disease
5.  Gene Mutations Resulting in the Development of ARVC/D Could Affect Cells of the Cardiac Conduction System 
In contrast to epithelial cells, cardiomyocytes are connected by complex hybrid-type adhering junctions, termed composite junctions (areae compositae). Composite junctions are found to be composed of typical desmosomal as well as adherens junction proteins. Therefore, in adult mammalian cardiomyocytes desmosomal proteins are not restricted to the relatively small desmosomes but are indirectly involved in anchoring the myofibrillar actin filaments. Subsequent investigations revealed that the formation of composite junctions is a rather late event during mammalian heart development and vertebrate heart evolution. Nascent, more round shaped cardiomyocytes of early developmental stages are connected by desmosomes and separate adherens junctions quite similar to cells of epithelial origin. During progression of development both types of adhering junctions seem to gradually fuse at the two poles of the mature mammalian cardiomyocytes to establish the hybrid-type composite junctions. Recently, we demonstrated that the specialized cardiomyocytes of the cardiac conduction system exhibit high amounts of desmosomes, not fully established composite junctions and adherens junctions. This underlines the fact that cells of the cardiac conduction system are known to resemble cardiomyocytes in their nascent state and do not undergo working myocardial differentiation. However, the astonishing high amount of desmosomal protein containing adhering junctions connecting, e.g., Purkinje fibers raises the possibility that pacemaker and conductive tissue may be affected by desmosomal gene mutations in ARVC/D patients.
PMCID: PMC3281278  PMID: 22363295
desmosome; area composita; heart; desmosomal gene mutation; conduction system; ARVC/D
6.  Desmosomal Molecules In and Out of Adhering Junctions: Normal and Diseased States of Epidermal, Cardiac and Mesenchymally Derived Cells 
Current cell biology textbooks mention only two kinds of cell-to-cell adhering junctions coated with the cytoplasmic plaques: the desmosomes (maculae adhaerentes), anchoring intermediate-sized filaments (IFs), and the actin microfilament-anchoring adherens junctions (AJs), including both punctate (puncta adhaerentia) and elongate (fasciae adhaerentes) structures. In addition, however, a series of other junction types has been identified and characterized which contain desmosomal molecules but do not fit the definition of desmosomes. Of these special cell-cell junctions containing desmosomal glycoproteins or proteins we review the composite junctions (areae compositae) connecting the cardiomyocytes of mature mammalian hearts and their importance in relation to human arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathies. We also emphasize the various plakophilin-2-positive plaques in AJs (coniunctiones adhaerentes) connecting proliferatively active mesenchymally-derived cells, including interstitial cells of the heart and several soft tissue tumor cell types. Moreover, desmoplakin has also been recognized as a constituent of the plaques of the complexus adhaerentes connecting certain lymphatic endothelial cells. Finally, we emphasize the occurrence of the desmosomal transmembrane glycoprotein, desmoglein Dsg2, out of the context of any junction as dispersed cell surface molecules in certain types of melanoma cells and melanocytes. This broadening of our knowledge on the diversity of AJ structures indicates that it may still be too premature to close the textbook chapters on cell-cell junctions.
PMCID: PMC2909724  PMID: 20671973
7.  The junctions that don’t fit the scheme: special symmetrical cell-cell junctions of their own kind 
Cell and Tissue Research  2009;338(1):1-17.
Immunocytochemical, electron-, and immunoelectron-microscopical studies have revealed that, in addition to the four major “textbook categories” of cell-cell junctions (gap junctions, tight junctions, adherens junctions, and desmosomes), a broad range of other junctions exists, such as the tiny puncta adhaerentia minima, the taproot junctions (manubria adhaerentia), the plakophilin-2-containing adherens junctions of mesenchymal or mesenchymally derived cell types including malignantly transformed cells, the composite junctions (areae compositae) of the mature mammalian myocardium, the cortex adhaerens of the eye lens, the interdesmosomal “sandwich” or “stud” junctions in the subapical layers of stratified epithelia and the tumors derived therefrom, and the complexus adhaerentes of the endothelial and virgultar cells of the lymph node sinus. On the basis of their sizes and shapes, other morphological criteria, and their specific molecular ensembles, these junctions and the genes that encode them cannot be subsumed under one of the major categories mentioned above but represent special structures in their own right, appear to serve special functions, and can give rise to specific pathological disorders.
PMCID: PMC2760712  PMID: 19680692
Junctions; Desmosomes; Area composita; Filopodium; Plaque

Results 1-7 (7)