Background: The cardiovascular developmental process is a tightly regulated network involving multiple genes. The current understanding of the molecular mechanism behind cardiovascular development is insufficient and requires further research.
Results: Transcriptome sequencing of three developmental stages in zebrafish embryos was performed and revealed three key cardiovascular developmental stages. Then, the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) involved in cardiovascular development were screened out. The three developmental stages were 18hpf (T1), 24hpf (T2), and 48hpf (T3), and the three stages were confirmed by detecting differences in expression between cardiomyocyte and endothelial marker genes (cmlc, fli1) using in situ hybridization, which represents the characteristics of cardiovascular development. Thousands of DEGs were identified using transcriptome analysis. Of them, 2650 DEGs were in T1-vs-T2, including 2003 up-regulated and 602 down-regulated genes, 6446 DEGs were in T1-vs-T3, consisting of 4608 up-regulated and 1838 down-regulated genes, and 3275 DEGs were in T2-vs-T3, including 2420 up-regulated and 655 down-regulated genes. There were 644 common DEGs and 167 common five-fold higher differentially expressed genes (HDEGs) identified, and Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathway enrichment analyses were performed using the Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery (DAVID). Significant differences was observed in the levels of gene expression among different developmental stages in multiple GO terms and KEGG pathways, such as cell migration to the midline involved in heart development, cardiovascular system development, circulatory system process for biological processes of GO terms; and cardiac muscle contraction, adrenergic signaling in cardiomyocytes for KEGG pathways. These results demonstrated that these three stages were important period for the development of the cardiovascular system. Lastly, we used quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) to validate the reliability of RNA-sequencing by selecting 21 DEGs.
Conclusion: These results demonstrated that these three stages represented an important period for cardiovascular system development and promoted a better understanding of the mechanism behind the development of the cardiovascular system and provided a solid foundation for additional functional studies of the DEGs.