Transformation of atrioventricular canal endocardium into invasive mesenchyme is a critical antecedent of cardiac septation and valvulogenesis. Previous studies by Potts et al. (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 88, 1510-1520, 1991) showed that treatment of atrioventricular canal endocardial and myocardial cocultures with TGFbeta3 antisense oligodeoxynucleotides blocked mesenchyme formation. Based on this observation, we sought to: (i) identify the target tissue of TGFbeta3 antisense oligos in this transformation bioassay, and (ii) more clearly define the mechanism of TGFbeta3 function in atrioventricular canal mesenchyme formation. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry showed little or no TGFbeta3 mRNA or protein in the atrioventricular canal myocardium or endocardium prior to mesenchyme formation (stage 14; paraformaldehyde fixation). However, by stage 18 transforming atrioventricular canal endocardial cells and mesenchyme as well as myocardium were positive for both TGFbeta3 mRNA and protein. In culture bioassays, atrioventricular canal endocardial monolayers pretreated with antisense phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotides to TGFbeta3 did not transform into invasive mesenchyme in response to cardiocyte conditioned medium: the subsequent addition of exogenous TGFbeta3 protein relieved this inhibition. Control cultures without pretreatment or those receiving missense oligos generated similar numbers of invasive mesenchyme in response to cardiocyte conditioned medium. Direct addition of TGFbeta3 protein to atrioventricular canal endocardial monolayers in the absence of cardiocyte conditioned medium resulted in loss of cell:cell associations and stimulated cellular hypertrophy, but did not engender invasive mesenchyme formation or alter endocardial proliferation after 24 h of culture. Similar results were obtained with TGFbeta2 protein, either alone or in combination with TGFbeta3. The results of this study indicate that: (i) atrioventricular canal endocardium expresses TGFbeta3 in response to a myocardially derived signal other than TGFbeta3, (ii) atrioventricular canal endocardial TGFbeta3 functions in an autocrine fashion to elicit selected characteristics necessary for cushion tissue formation, and (iii) TGFbeta3 alone or in combination with TGFbeta2 is insufficient to transform atrioventricular canal endocardium into invasive mesenchyme in culture.
Copyright 1998 Academic Press.