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Cardiovasc Res. 2012 Jul 1;95(1):108-15. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvs147. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Normal and abnormal development of the intrapericardial arterial trunks in humans and mice.

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Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, Central Parkway, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.



The definitive cardiac outflow channels have three components: the intrapericardial arterial trunks; the arterial roots with valves; and the ventricular outflow tracts (OFTs). We studied the normal and abnormal development of the most distal of these, the arterial trunks, comparing findings in mice and humans.


Using lineage tracing and three-dimensional visualization by episcopic reconstruction and scanning electron microscopy, we studied embryonic day 9.5-12.5 mouse hearts, clarifying the development of the OFTs distal to the primordia of the arterial valves. We characterize a transient aortopulmonary (AP) foramen, located between the leading edge of a protrusion from the dorsal wall of the aortic sac and the distal margins of the two outflow cushions. The foramen is closed by fusion of the protrusion, with its cap of neural crest cells (NCCs), with the NCC-filled cushions; the resulting structure then functioning transiently as an AP septum. Only subsequent to this closure is it possible to recognize, more proximally, the previously described AP septal complex. The adjacent walls of the intrapericardial trunks are derived from the protrusion and distal parts of the outflow cushions, whereas the lateral walls are formed from intrapericardial extensions of the pharyngeal mesenchyme derived from the second heart field.


We provide, for the first time, objective evidence of the mechanisms of closure of an AP foramen that exists distally between the lumens of the developing intrapericardial arterial trunks. Our findings provide insights into the formation of AP windows and the variants of common arterial trunk.

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