Endocardial cells play a critical role in cardiac development and function, forming the innermost layer of the early (tubular) heart, separated from the myocardium by extracellular matrix (ECM). However, knowledge is limited regarding the interactions of cardiac progenitors and surrounding ECM during dramatic tissue rearrangements and concomitant cellular repositioning events that underlie endocardial morphogenesis. By analyzing the movements of immunolabeled ECM components (fibronectin, fibrillin-2) and TIE1 positive endocardial progenitors in time-lapse recordings of quail embryonic development, we demonstrate that the transformation of the primary heart field within the anterior lateral plate mesoderm (LPM) into a tubular heart involves the precise co-movement of primordial endocardial cells with the surrounding ECM. Thus, the ECM of the tubular heart contains filaments that were associated with the anterior LPM at earlier developmental stages. Moreover, endocardial cells exhibit surprisingly little directed active motility, that is, sustained directed movements relative to the surrounding ECM microenvironment. These findings point to the importance of large-scale tissue movements that convect cells to the appropriate positions during cardiac organogenesis.
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