Normal development of the outflow tract in the rat

Circ Res. 1998 Mar 9;82(4):464-72. doi: 10.1161/01.res.82.4.464.


The outflow tract (OFT) provides the structural components forming the ventriculoarterial connection. The prevailing concept that this junction "rotates" to acquire its definitive topography also requires a concept of "counterrotation" and is difficult to reconcile with cell-marking studies. Rats between 10 embryonic days (EDs) and 2 postnatal days were stained immunohistochemically and by in situ hybridization. DNA replication was determined by incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine and apoptosis by the annexin V binding and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-X nick end labeling (TUNEL) assays. Starting at ED12, cardiomyocytes in the distal (truncal) part of the OFT begin to shed their myocardial phenotype without proceeding into apoptosis, suggesting transdifferentiation. Myocardial regression is most pronounced on the dextroposterior side and continues until after birth, as revealed by the disappearance of the myocardial cuff surrounding the coronary roots and semilunar sinuses and by the establishment of fibrous continuity between mitral and aortic semilunar valves. Fusion of the endocardial ridges of the truncus on late ED13 is accompanied by the organization of alpha-smooth muscle actin-and nonmuscle myosin heavy chain-positive myofibroblasts into a central whorl and the appearance of the semilunar valve anlagen at their definitive topographical position within the proximal portion of the truncus. After fusion of the proximal (conal) portion of the endocardial ridges, many of the resident myofibroblasts undergo apoptosis and are replaced by cardiomyocytes. The distal myocardial boundary of the OFT is not a stable landmark but moves proximally over the spiraling course of the aortic and pulmonary routes, so that the semilunar valves develop at their definitive topographic position. After septation, the distal boundary of the OFT continues to regress, particularly in its subaortic portion. The myocardializing conus septum, on the other hand, becomes largely incorporated into the right ventricle. These opposite developments account for the pronounced asymmetry of the subaortic and subpulmonary outlets in the formed heart.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Endocardium / cytology
  • Fibronectins / metabolism
  • Gestational Age
  • Heart / embryology*
  • Heart Valves / embryology
  • Heart Ventricles / embryology
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Morphogenesis
  • Myosin Heavy Chains / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar*


  • Actins
  • Fibronectins
  • Myosin Heavy Chains