Trevor Henley, Kandace Thomas, Michael C. Bressan
Feb 17, 2019
Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE
Interpreting the relative impact of cell autonomous patterning versus extrinsic microenvironmental influence on cell lineage determination represents a general challenge in developmental biology research. In the embryonic heart, this can be particularly difficult as regional differences in the expression of transcriptional regulators, paracrine/juxtacrine signaling cues, and hemodynamic force are all known to influence cardiomyocyte maturation. A simplified method to alter a developing cardiomyocyte’s molecular and biomechanical microenvironment would, therefore, serve as a powerful technique to examine how local conditions influence cell fate and function. To address this, we have optimized a method to physically transplant juvenile cardiomyocytes into ectopic locations in the heart or the surrounding embryonic tissue. This allows us to examine how microenvironmental conditions influence cardiomyocyte fate transitions at single cell resolution within the intact embryo. Here, we describe a protocol in which embryonic myocytes can be isolated from a variety of cardiac sub-domains, dissociated, fluorescently labeled, and microinjected into host embryos with high precision. Cells can then be directly analyzed in situ using a variety of imaging and histological techniques. This protocol is a powerful alternative to traditional grafting experiments that can be prohibitively difficult in a moving tissue such as the heart. The general outline of this method can also be adapted to a variety of donor tissues and host environments, and its ease of use, low cost, and speed make it a potentially useful application for a variety of developmental studies.