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Dev Dyn. 2000 Apr;217(4):388-400.

Programmed cell death in the developing heart: regulation by BMP4 and FGF2.

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Yale Child Health Research Center, Department of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, plays an important role in embryonic development. To provide new insights into the role of programmed cell death in cardiac development, we examined the hearts of the murine embryos from E9.5 to postnatal day 3. Using terminal transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling assays, apoptosis was detected in the endocardial cushions and myocardium from E11.5 to postnatal day 3 (P3). In the ventricular myocardium, more apoptotic cells were observed in the left than right ventricles throughout embryonic and early postnatal development. Apoptosis was also present in the trabeculae and papillary muscles of the ventricles. In the outflow tract, cell death was present in the endocardial cushions before they fuse to form the conotruncal septum (E11.5-E12. 5) and reached a peak intensity when the conotruncal septum formed (E13.5). In the atrioventricular (AV) endocardial cushions, cell death was detected in the fusion seam of the cushion tissues at E12. 5 and E13.5 during AV septation. When the patterns of apoptosis were compared with patterns of cell division, we found that programmed cell death occurred in the areas in the endocardial cushions and trabeculae where rates of cell proliferation were low. We also found that programmed cell death was regulated by the growth factors, BMP4 and FGF2, in vitro. BMP4 induced, whereas FGF2 inhibited, apoptosis in both endocardial cushions and ventricular myocardium. Overall, our observations show that there is apoptosis in the regions where fusion or remodeling of tissues occurs. We also show that cardiac programmed cell death can be influenced by growth factors.

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