Mechanisms of Deficient Cardiac Septation in the Mouse With Trisomy 16

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It used to be thought that the atrioventricular septum was predominantly the product of the atrioventricular endocardial cushions. In a previous study, we have shown that multiple developmental primordia are of importance in its formation. With this in mind, we have evaluated cardiac morphogenesis in the mouse with trisomy 16, an animal model with a high incidence of atrioventricular septal defects. Normal and trisomic fetuses from an Rb(11.16)2H/Rb(16.17)7BnrxC57BL/6J cross were collected on days 10 to 15 of gestation and examined by scanning electron microscopy and histological serial sectioning. No evidence was found to suggest that atrioventricular septal defect could be explained simply on the basis of "failure of fusion" between the atrioventricular endocardial cushions. Rather, our findings supported two other developmental elements as being important in the genesis of atrioventricular septal defect. The first is an alteration in the configuration of the heart tube, with inadequate remodeling of the inner heart curvature. This resulted in the failure of the atrioventricular junction to expand to the right, with subsequent malalignment of the atrioventricular endocardial cushions with the proximal outflow cushions. The second is a variability in the connection of the primary atrial cardiac segment to the body of the embryo, the so-called dorsal mesocardium, which influences its relationship to the extracardiac mediastinal mesoderm. There appeared little difference in the connection between normal and trisomic embryos at the stage of 20 to 25 somites, but the area subsequently showed marked changes. In most trisomic embryos, the connection with the mediastinal mesoderm of the body was over a larger area than seen in normal embryos. As this area of attachment encloses the pulmonary pit, the entry point of the pulmonary vein, this gives potential for variation in the connection of the pulmonary vein. In addition, in the majority of trisomic embryos, the right pulmonary ridge (the spina vestibuli) did not accumulate extracardiac mesoderm, nor did it undergo the pronounced forward growth seen in normal embryos of equivalent stages. Consequently, the trisomic embryos show incomplete formation of both the atrial and the atrioventricular septal structures. (Circ Res. 1999;84:897-905.)

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