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Dev Biol. 1983 Jan;95(1):108-14.

Invasion of mesenchyme into three-dimensional collagen gels: a regional and temporal analysis of interaction in embryonic heart tissue.


In normal heart development the endothelium of the atrioventricular canal, but not the ventricle, produces mesenchymal cells which seed (invade) into the intervening extracellular matrix toward the myocardium at around 64-69 hr of development. We have utilized three-dimensional collagen substrates to examine the initiation of seeding by atrioventricular canal endothelia in vitro and to compare and contrast the responses of the ventricular endothelia. Explants of atrioventricular canals and ventricles from staged embryos were placed on the surfaces of collagen gels prior to the onset of seeding in situ. At varied intervals of incubation, the explant was removed, leaving behind a monolayer on the surface of the gel which consisted of endothelial cells. Subsequently, the endothelial outgrowths were examined for seeded cells. The results confirm the regional endothelial differences seen in vivo. They also show that invasion of the collagen gels is due to an alteration in phenotype mediated by interaction with other components of embryonic heart explant. Lastly, the time course of this tissue interaction in vitro mimics the onset of seeding in vivo.

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