Neural crest is involved in development of abnormal myocardial function

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Around 85% of embryos homozygous for the splotch (Sp(2H)) allele (Sp(2H)/Sp(2H)), a Pax3 mutation, develop persistent truncus arteriosus (PTA), a defect related to the cardiac neural crest. These embryos die by 14.5 days post coitum. In an investigation of the cause of lethality in these embryos, we used digital video imaging microscopy to examine beating embryonic hearts in situ at 13.5 dpc. The hearts of Sp(2H)/Sp(2H) embryos with PTA clearly showed poor function when compared with normal litter mates. Contractile force was examined in detergent-skinned ventricular muscle strips from Sp(2H)/Sp(2H) embryos at ages 12.5 and 13.5 dpc. There was no significant difference in the maximum force or in myosin content between Sp(2H)/Sp(2H) and control groups, indicating no significant dysfunction of the contractile apparatus in hearts from Sp(2H)/Sp(2H) embryos. Ca2+ transients were examined in enzymatically-dissociated ventricular myocytes and were significantly reduced in defective hearts, indicating that reduced cardiac function in Sp(2H)/Sp(2H) embryos with PTA was due to impaired excitation-contraction (EC) coupling. Ca2+ currents were examined using the perforated patch clamp technique. The magnitude of the Ca2+ current was found to be reduced by ≈3.2-fold in Sp(2H)/Sp(2H) hearts with PTA compared to normal. Since the sarcoplasmic reticulum is sparse or absent in the embryonic heart, the impaired EC coupling was due to the reduction in Ca2+ current. These observations suggest that neural crest abnormalities result in a defect in EC coupling, causing depressed myocardial function and death in utero from cardiac failure. Interestingly, Sp(2H)/Sp(2H) hearts without PTA had normal EC coupling. These results indicated that impaired EC coupling was secondary to the Pax3 mutation. The findings in this report indicate an important role for the neural crest in the development of normal myocardial function, and represent the first demonstration of impaired excitation-contraction coupling in a genetically-defined embryonic mammalian model of a cardiac structural defect.

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Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology





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This article was published in Journal of Molecular and Cellular Cardiology, Volume 29, Issue 10, Pages 2675-2685.

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Copyright © 1997 Elsevier.

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