Formation of the Atrioventricular Septal Structures in the Normal Mouse

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It is sometimes thought that formation of the atrioventricular septum is equated with fusion of the endocardial cushions and that failure of fusion can explain all deficiencies of atrioventricular septation. Clearly, this is simplistic, but the exact contribution of different primordia to atrioventricular septation is not well understood. To clarify this, we studied normal mouse embryos (days 10 to 15 of gestation), which were serially sectioned and examined by light microscopy. Another group of embryos was examined by scanning electron microscopy after microdissection. Our results show that development of the atrioventricular septal area is highly complex. Proper formation requires the following: remodeling of the inner heart curvature, rotation of the horns of the systemic venous sinus around the pulmonary portal, expansion of the right atrioventricular junction, formation of the muscular atrial and ventricular septa, bridging by the dextrodorsal outflow ridge and the superior endocardial cushion, fusion with the inferior margins of the venous valves, and formation of the mouth of the coronary sinus from the cranial muscular wall of the left sinus horn. Multiple primordia contribute to a central mesenchymal mass (the “septum intermedium”), including the mesenchyme on the leading edge of the primary atrial septum, the atrioventricular endocardial cushions, and the cap of mesenchyme on the spina vestibuli. Fusion of these components closes the ostium primum, completing atrial and atrioventricular septation. Additionally, the spina vestibuli has a mesodermal core, which contributes to the muscularization of the lower margin of the oval fossa. This contrasts with the formation of the upper rim, which occurs as a result of an infolding of the atrial wall itself. (Circ Res. 1998;82:645-656.)

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