Research Highlights

Artery-vein specification in the zebrafish trunk is pre-patterned by heterogeneous Notch activity and balanced by flow-mediated fine-tuning


Ilse Geudens, Baptiste Coxam, Silvanus Alt, Véronique Gebala, Anne-Clémence Vion, Katja Meier, Andre Rosa, Holger Gerhardt

Development (27 August 2019)

How developing vascular networks acquire the right balance of arteries, veins and lymphatic vessels to efficiently supply and drain tissues is poorly understood. In zebrafish embryos, the robust and regular 50:50 global balance of intersegmental veins and arteries that form along the trunk prompts the intriguing question of how does the organism keep ‘count’? Previous studies have suggested that the ultimate fate of an intersegmental vessel (ISV) is determined by the identity of the approaching secondary sprout emerging from the posterior cardinal vein. Here, we show that the formation of a balanced trunk vasculature involves an early heterogeneity in endothelial cell behaviour and Notch signalling activity in the seemingly identical primary ISVs that is independent of secondary sprouting and flow. We show that Notch signalling mediates the local patterning of ISVs, and an adaptive flow-mediated mechanism subsequently fine-tunes the global balance of arteries and veins along the trunk. We propose that this dual mechanism provides the adaptability required to establish a balanced network of arteries, veins and lymphatic vessels.