Trabecular myocytes of the embryonic heart require N-cadherin for migratory unit identity

Dev Biol. 1998 Jan 1;193(1):1-9. doi: 10.1006/dbio.1997.8775.


The myocardial wall of the vertebrate heart changes from a simple epithelium to a trabeculated structure during embryogenesis. This process occurs when epithelioid cardiomyocytes migrate toward the endocardium, which we show is coincident with up-regulation of the cell adhesion molecule, N-cadherin. To study the role of N-cadherin expressed at the trabeculation stage, a replication-defective retrovirus expressing a dominant negative mutant of N-cadherin (delta N-cadherin) was engineered. Control viruses were designed to express beta-galactosidase or a full-length N-cadherin. Viruses were introduced into epithelioid presumptive myocytes at the time they initiate the epithelial-mesenchymal transformation. Individual cells infected with control viruses generated daughter myocytes which migrated toward endocardium as a tight cluster, thereby generating a clone that forms a single or at most two trabeculae. In contrast, myocytes expressing delta N-cadherin were sparsely distributed within the myocardium and failed to form the ridge-shaped clone. Thus, in addition to its known roles in myocyte epithelialization and intercalated disc formation, N-cadherin appears to play a role in homotypic interactions between nonepithelial migratory myocytes during trabecular formation of the embryonic heart.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / analysis
  • Cadherins / physiology*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Dogs
  • Endocardium / cytology
  • Endocardium / embryology
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Heart / embryology*
  • Mesoderm
  • Myocardium / chemistry
  • Myocardium / cytology*
  • Myocardium / ultrastructure
  • Retroviridae / genetics
  • Sequence Deletion


  • Cadherins