Repairing the fish heart
Although humans show minimal regenerative capability, zebrafish can regenerate their hearts through a mechanism whereby heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) revert to a less mature state and then proliferate to replace the damaged tissue. Ogawa et al. show that Krüppel-like factor 1 (Klf1/Eklf), a transcription factor well known for its role in red blood cell development, is an essential factor for heart regeneration in zebrafish. Klf1 is specifically expressed in cardiomyocytes after injury, and its activation is sufficient to stimulate new cardiomyocyte production without injury. This potent effect is achieved through reprogramming of gene networks regulating cardiomyocyte differentiation and mitochondrial metabolism.
Science, this issue p. 201
Cardiac regeneration requires dedifferentiation and proliferation of mature cardiomyocytes, but the mechanisms underlying this plasticity remain unclear. Here, we identify a potent cardiomyogenic role for Krüppel-like factor 1 (Klf1/Eklf), which is induced in adult zebrafish myocardium upon injury. Myocardial inhibition of Klf1 function does not affect heart development, but it severely impairs regeneration. Transient Klf1 activation is sufficient to expand mature myocardium in uninjured hearts. Klf1 directs epigenetic reprogramming of the cardiac transcription factor network, permitting coordinated cardiomyocyte dedifferentiation and proliferation. Myocardial expansion is supported by Klf1-induced rewiring of mitochondrial metabolism from oxidative respiration to anabolic pathways. Our findings establish Klf1 as a core transcriptional regulator of cardiomyocyte renewal in adult zebrafish hearts.
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