Well after formation of the primary linear heart tube, the mesenchymal cardiac septa become largely myocardial, and myocardial sleeves are formed along the caval and pulmonary veins. This second wave of myocardium formation can be envisioned to be the result of recruitment of cardiomyocytes by differentiation from flanking mesenchyme and/or by migration from existing myocardium (myocardialization). As a first step to elucidate the underlying mechanism, we studied in chicken heart development the formation of myocardial cells within intra- and extracardiac mesenchymal structures. We show that the second wave of myocardium formation proceeds in a caudal-to-cranial gradient in vivo. At the venous pole, loosely arranged networks of cardiomyocytes are observed in the dorsal mesocardium from H/H19 onward, in the atrioventricular cushion region from H/H26 onward, and in the proximal outflow tract (conus) from H/H29 onward. The process is completed at H/H stage 43. Subsequently, we determined the potential of the different cardiac compartments to form myocardial networks in a 3D in vitro culture assay. This analysis showed that the competency to form myocardial networks in vitro is a characteristic of the myocardium that is flanked by intra- or extracardiac mesenchyme, i.e., the inflow tract, atrioventricular canal, and outflow tract. These cardiac compartments can be induced to form myocardial networks by a temporally released or secreted signal that is similar throughout the entire heart. Atrial and ventricular compartments are not competent and do not produce the inducer. Moreover, cardiac cushion mesenchyme was found to be able to (trans-)differentiate into cardiomyocytes in the in vitro culture assay. The combined observations suggest that a common mechanism and molecular regulatory pathway underlies the recruitment of mesodermal cells into the cardiogenic lineage during this second wave of myocardium formation through the entire heart.
(c) 2001 Elsevier Science.