The role of mechanical forces in dextral rotation during cardiac looping in the chick embryo

Dev Biol. 2004 Aug 15;272(2):339-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2004.04.033.


Cardiac looping is a vital morphogenetic process that transforms the initially straight heart tube into a curved tube normally directed toward the right side of the embryo. While recent work has brought major advances in our understanding of the genetic and molecular pathways involved in looping, the biophysical mechanisms that drive this process have remained poorly understood. This paper examines the role of biomechanical forces in cardiac rotation during the initial stages of looping, when the heart bends and rotates into a c-shaped tube (c-looping). Embryonic chick hearts were subjected to mechanical and chemical perturbations, and tissue stress and strain were studied using dissection and fluorescent labeling, respectively. The results suggest that (1) the heart contains little or no intrinsic ability to rotate, as external forces exerted by the splanchnopleure (SPL) and the omphalomesenteric veins (OVs) drive rotation; (2) unbalanced forces in the omphalomesenteric veins play a role in left-right looping directionality; and (3) in addition to ventral bending and rightward rotation, the heart tube also bends slightly toward the right. The results of this study may help investigators searching for the link between gene expression and the mechanical processes that drive looping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Body Patterning / physiology
  • Chick Embryo
  • Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Heart / embryology*
  • Mechanics
  • Mesenteric Veins / embryology
  • Mesenteric Veins / surgery
  • Models, Biological*
  • Organogenesis
  • Rotation
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Actins