Development of cardiac beat rate in early chick embryos is regulated by regional cues

Jonathan Satin, Shiroh Fujii, Robert L. DeHaan

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80 Scopus citations


The mesoderm of each of the paired lateral heart-forming regions (HFRs) in the stage 5-7 chick embryo includes prospective conus (pre-C), ventricle (pre-V), and sinoatrial (pre-SA) cells, arranged in a rostrocaudal sequence (C-V-SA). With microsurgery we divided each HFR into three rostrocaudally arranged segments. After 24 hr of further incubation, each segment differentiated into a spontaneously beating vesicle of heart tissue to form a multiheart embryo. The cardiac vesicles in these embryos expressed left-right and rostrocaudal beat rate gradients: the left caudal pre-SA mesoderm produced tissue with the fastest beat rate of the six while the rostral vesicle formed from right pre-C was the slowest. In another operation, we prevented the HFRs from fusing in the midline by cutting through the anterior intestinal portal at stage 8, to produce cardia bifida (CB) embryos with an independently beating half-heart on each side. In these cases, the left half-heart of 87.2% of CB embryos beat faster than the right, confirming the left-right difference in intrinsic beat rate. To assess whether the future beat rate of each region is already determined in the st 5-7 HFR, we exchanged rectangular fragments of left pre-SA mesoderm and attached endoderm with right pre-C fragments to yield a left HFR with the sequence C-V-C and a right HFR with the sequence SA-V-SA. A CB operation was subsequently performed on these exchange embryos to prevent fusion of the lateral HFRs. Preconus mesoderm, transplanted to the pre-SA region, differentiated into tissue with a rapid beat rate, while pre-SA mesoderm relocated to the preconus region formed heart tissue with a slow spontaneous rate typical of the conus. In 73% of the exchange CB embryos, the left half-heart beat faster than the right, despite the origins of its mesoderm. The exchanged mesoderm developed a rate that was appropriate for its new location rather than the site of origin of the mesodermal fragment. In a third set of operations, we implanted a fragment of st 15 differentiated conus tissue into a site lateral to the left caudal HFR in st 5, 6, and 7 embryos, and subsequently performed CB operations on them. The implant caused the adjacent half-heart to develop with a slower beat rate than in unoperated or sham-operated controls. We conclude that (i) at st 5-7 the precardiac mesoderm is not yet stably coded for its future intrinsic beat rate; and (ii) local cues from the tissues surrounding the preconus mesoderm can alter the intrinsic beat rate of the differentiating precardiac cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-113
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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