Plakoglobin, or gamma-catenin, is found in both desmosomes and adherens junctions and participates in Wnt signalling. Mutations in the human gene are implicated in the congenital heart disorder, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), but the signalling effects of plakoglobin loss in ARVC have not been established. Here we report that knockdown of plakoglobin in zebrafish results in decreased heart size, reduced heartbeat, cardiac oedema, reflux of blood between heart chambers and a twisted tail. Wholemount in situ hybridisation shows reduced expression of the heart markers nkx2.5 at 24 hours post fertilisation (hpf), and cmlc2 and vmhc at 48 hpf, while there is lack of restriction of the valve markers notch1b and bmp4 at 48 hpf. Writ target gene expression was examined by semi-quantitative RTPCR and found to be increased in morphant embryos indicating that plakoglobin is antagonistic to Writ signalling. Co-expression of the Writ inhibitor, Dkk1, rescues the cardiac phenotype of the plakoglobin morphant. beta-catenin protein expression is increased in morphant embryos as is its colocalisation with E-cadherin in adherens junctions. Endothelial cells at the atrioventricular boundary of morphant hearts have all aberrant morphology, indicating problems with valvulogenesis. Morphants also have decreased numbers of desmosomes and adherens junctions in the intercalated discs. These results establish the zebrafish as a model for ARVC caused by loss of plakoglobin function and indicate that there are signalling as well as structural consequences of this loss. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.