Coordinated contraction of the heart is essential for survival and is regulated by the cardiac conduction system. Contraction of ventricular myocytes is controlled by the terminal part of the conduction system known as the Purkinje fiber network. Lineage analyses in chickens and mice have established that the Purkinje fibers of the peripheral ventricular conduction system arise from working myocytes during cardiac development. It has been proposed, based primarily on gain-of-function studies, that Endothelin signaling is responsible for myocyte-to-Purkinje fiber transdifferentiation during avian heart development. However, the role of Endothelin signaling in mammalian conduction system development is less clear, and the development of the cardiac conduction system in mice lacking Endothelin signaling has not been previously addressed. Here, we assessed the specification of the cardiac conduction system in mouse embryos lacking all Endothelin signaling. We found that mouse embryos that were homozygous null for both ednra and ednrb, the genes encoding the two Endothelin receptors in mice, were born at predicted Mendelian frequency and had normal specification of the cardiac conduction system and apparently normal electrocardiograms with normal QRS intervals. In addition, we found that ednra expression within the heart was restricted to the myocardium while ednrb expression in the heart was restricted to the endocardium and coronary endothelium. By establishing that ednra and ednrb are expressed in distinct compartments within the developing mammalian heart and that Endothelin signaling is dispensable for specification and function of the cardiac conduction system, this work has important implications for our understanding of mammalian cardiac development.
Keywords: CCS-lacZ; Cardiac conduction system; ET(A); ET(B); Endothelin; Mouse; Purkinje fibers.
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