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Dev Biol. 1987 Apr;120(2):348-55.

Extracellular matrix from embryonic myocardium elicits an early morphogenetic event in cardiac endothelial differentiation.


A critical step in early cardiac morphogenesis can be faithfully duplicated in culture using a hydrated collagen substratum, and thereby serves as a useful model system for studying the molecular mechanisms of cell differentiation. Results from previous work suggested that the myocardium in the atrioventricular canal (AV) region of the developing chick heart secretes extracellular proteins into its associated basement membrane, which may function to promote an epithelial-mesenchymal transition of endothelium to form prevalvular fibroblasts (E. L. Krug, R. B. Runyan, and R. R. Markwald, 1985, Dev. Biol. 112, 414-426; C. H. Mjaatvedt, R. C. Lepera, and R. R. Markwald, 1987, Dev. Biol., in press). In the present study we show that an EDTA-soluble extract of embryonic chick hearts can substitute for the presence of myocardium, the presumptive stimulator tissue, in initiating mesenchyme formation from AV endothelium in culture. Ventricular endothelium was unresponsive to this material in keeping with observed in situ behavior. AV endothelial cells did not survive beyond 4-5 days when cultured in the absence of either the EDTA-soluble heart extract, myocardial conditioned medium, or the myocardium itself. Antibody prepared against a particulate fraction of the EDTA-solubilized heart extract immunohistochemically localized this material to the myocardial basement membrane. In addition, conditioned medium from embryonic myocardial cultures effectively induced mesenchyme formation. Neither a variety of growth factors nor a sarcoma basement membrane preparation were effective in promoting mesenchyme formation indicating a selectivity of the responding embryonic AV endothelial cells to myocardial basement membrane. These observations reflect a truly inductive phenomenon as there was an absolute dependence on the presence of the stimulating substance/tissue and retention, in culture, of both the temporal and regional characteristics observed in situ. This is in contrast to the results of others investigating the cytodifferentiation of committed cells whose phenotypic expression can be either accelerated or diminished but not obligatorily regulated by a specific agent, thus making the interpretation of data difficult, if not irrelevant, to the study of differentiation. The results of this study provide direct experimental support for the hypothesis that extracellular matrix can indeed serve as a direct stimulator or "secondary inducer" of cytodifferentiation.

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