Extracellular Matrix Structure and Composition in the Early Four-Chambered Embryonic Heart

2020-07-29T21:25:10Z (GMT) by Quentin Jallerat Adam W Feinberg
During embryonic development, the heart undergoes complex morphogenesis from a liner tube into the four chambers consisting of ventricles, atria and valves. At the same time, the cardiomyocytes compact into a dense, aligned, and highly vascularized myocardium. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is known to play an important role in this process but understanding of the expression and organization remains incomplete. Here, we performed 3D confocal imaging of ECM in the left ventricle and whole heart of embryonic chick from stages Hamburger-Hamilton 28-35 (days 5-9) as an accessible model of heart formation. First, we observed the formation of a fibronectin-rich, capillary-like networks in the myocardium between day 5 and day 9 of development. Then, we focused on day 5 prior to vascularization to determine the relative expression of fibronectin, laminin, and collagen type IV. Cardiomyocytes were found to uniaxially align prior to vascularization and, while the epicardium contained all ECM components, laminin was reduced, and collagen type IV was largely absent. Quantification of fibronectin revealed highly aligned fibers with a mean diameter of ~500 nm and interfiber spacing of ~3 µm. These structural parameters (volume, spacing, fiber diameter, length, and orientation) provide a quantitative framework to describe the organization of the embryonic ECM.