The mature heart valves and septa are derived from the cardiac cushions which initially form as local outgrowths of mesenchymal cells within the outflow tract and atrioventricular regions. Endocardial cells respond to signals from the overlying myocardium and undergo an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transformation to invade the intervening extracellular matrix. The molecules that can induce and maintain these cell populations are not known, but many candidates, including several TGFbetas and BMPs, have been proposed based on their expression patterns and activities in other systems. In the present study, we describe the expression of Bmp6 and Bmp7 in overlapping and adjacent sites, including the cardiac cushions during mouse embryonic development. Previous analyses demonstrate that neither of these BMPs is required during cardiogenesis, but analysis of Bmp6;Bmp7 double mutants uncovers a marked delay in the formation of the outflow tract endocardial cushions. A proportion of Bmp6;Bmp7 mutants also display defects in valve morphogenesis and chamber septation, and the embryos die between 10.5 and 15.5 dpc due to cardiac insufficiency. These data provide the first genetic evidence that BMPs are involved in the formation of the cardiac cushions.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.