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Dev Biol. 1987 Jan;119(1):59-67.

Myocardial specificity for initiating endothelial-mesenchymal cell transition in embryonic chick heart correlates with a particulate distribution of fibronectin.


The early chick heart tube consists of myocardium and endothelium separated by a myocardially derived basement membrane (MBM). As development proceeds, the endothelium undergoes a transition into mesenchyme in a regionally specific manner; only the atrioventricular (AV) and outflow tract, but not the ventricular endothelium, is transformed into mesenchyme, the progenitor of heart septa and valves. Recent experiments have shown that an EDTA extract of MBM can initiate AV endothelium to form mesenchyme in an in vitro collagen gel culture system. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of AV region EDTA extracts showed potentially three isoelectric forms of fibronectin (Fn), while extracts from ventricle contained only two forms. The purpose of the present study was to further investigate the significance of these regional differences by testing of specific myocardial regions (AV vs ventricle) for their ability to induce endothelium to form mesenchyme in vitro, and to immunohistochemically determine if a regionally specific distribution of Fn exists in the MBM that can be correlated with previous electrophoretic data. Embryonic heart regions cultured on three-dimensional collagen gels showed that AV endothelium could only form mesenchyme if cocultured with AV myocardium. Coculture with ventricular myocardial explants did not initiate differentiation of AV endothelium. In contrast, ventricular endothelial cells did not form mesenchyme when cocultured with AV or ventricle myocardium. Immunohistochemical localization of Fn revealed three distinct morphological patterns of distribution in the AV-MBM, i.e., an intense lamina densa staining, diffuse staining in fibrils, and as particles. The Fn localized in particles (0.1 to 0.5 micron in diameter) appeared as a gradient of decreasing concentration extending from the myocardium toward the endothelium. In contrast, no particulate Fn staining was observed in the ventricular region. EDTA extraction selectively depleted the particulate form of Fn. Previous work has shown that this extract, which contains several lower Mr proteins in addition to Fn, is biologically active in initiating mesenchyme formation from AV endothelium in vitro. These results show that a regionally specific interaction of the myocardium with the endothelium is required to initiate the formation of prevalvular mesenchyme. This interaction may be mediated by a multicomponent complex involving Fn and other proteins which appear as a regionally distinct particulate only in areas of endothelial differentiation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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