Background: The cardiac-like musculature is distributed not only in the heart wall but also in the intrapulmonary venous wall in a few species of insectivores. It has been suggested that the evolutionary origin of venous cardiac-like musculature may be traceable to a basic stock of certain mammalian lines of descent. So, it is important to clarify whether the musculature may be a common structure in lower mammals from insectivores to primates and to examine the functional significance of the structure.
Methods: The distribution of cardiac-like musculature in the intrapulmonary venous wall of the long-clawed shrew (Sorex unguiculatus), common tree shrew (Tupaia glis), and common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) was observed by light and electron microscopy. The presence of atrial natriuretic polypeptide (ANP) was examined in the musculature by immunohistochemistry.
Results: All three species contained cardiac-like myocytes in the tunica media of intrapulmonary venous wall. In the common tree shrew and the common marmoset, cardiac-like musculature was found in the small intrapulmonary vein of 150-200 microns in diameter, while, in the long-clawed shrew, it was distributed even in the intrapulmonary vein of 30 microns in diameter. Ultrastructure of myocytes was fundamentally similar to that of atrial myocytes in the long-clawed shrew and the common tree shrew. The presence of atrial natriuretic polypeptide (ANP) was also demonstrated by immunohistochemistry in the intrapulmonary venous walls of common tree shrews.
Conclusions: The results indicate that the pulmonary venous cardiac-like musculature occurs in the lower eutherian mammals from insectivores to primitive primates. The musculature is thought to act as a regulatory pump in pulmonary circulation and as an endocrine apparatus of ANP.