Identification of astroglia-like cardiac nexus glia that are critical regulators of cardiac development and function

Glial cells are essential for functionality of the nervous system. Growing evidence underscores the importance of astrocytes; however, analogous astroglia in peripheral organs are poorly understood. Using confocal time-lapse imaging, fate mapping, and mutant genesis in a zebrafish model, we identify a neural crest–derived glial cell, termed nexus glia, which utilizes Meteorin signaling via Jak/Stat3 to drive differentiation and regulate heart rate and rhythm. Nexus glia are labeled with gfap, glast, and glutamine synthetase, markers that typically denote astroglia cells. Further, analysis of single-cell sequencing datasets of human and murine hearts across ages reveals astrocyte-like cells, which we confirm through a multispecies approach.

We show that cardiac nexus glia at the outflow tract are critical regulators of both the sympathetic and parasympathetic system. These data establish the crucial role of glia on cardiac homeostasis and provide a description of nexus glia in the PNS.