Developmental origin, growth, and three-dimensional architecture of the atrioventricular conduction axis of the mouse heart.
Aanhaanen WT., Mommersteeg MT., Norden J., Wakker V., de Gier-de Vries C., Anderson RH., Kispert A., Moorman AF., Christoffels VM.
RATIONALE: The clinically important atrioventricular conduction axis is structurally complex and heterogeneous, and its molecular composition and developmental origin are uncertain. OBJECTIVE: To assess the molecular composition and 3D architecture of the atrioventricular conduction axis in the postnatal mouse heart and to define the developmental origin of its component parts. METHODS AND RESULTS: We generated an interactive 3D model of the atrioventricular junctions in the mouse heart using the patterns of expression of Tbx3, Hcn4, Cx40, Cx43, Cx45, and Nav1.5, which are important for conduction system function. We found extensive figure-of-eight rings of nodal and transitional cells around the mitral and tricuspid junctions and in the base of the atrial septum. The rings included the compact node and nodal extensions. We then used genetic lineage labeling tools (Tbx2(+/Cre), Mef2c-AHF-Cre, Tbx18(+/Cre)), along with morphometric analyses, to assess the developmental origin of the specific components of the axis. The majority of the atrial components, including the atrioventricular rings and compact node, are derived from the embryonic atrioventricular canal. The atrioventricular bundle, including the lower cells of the atrioventricular node, in contrast, is derived from the ventricular myocardium. No contributions to the conduction system myocardium were identified from the sinus venosus, the epicardium, or the dorsal mesenchymal protrusion. CONCLUSIONS: The atrioventricular conduction axis comprises multiple domains with distinctive molecular signatures. The atrial part proliferates from the embryonic atrioventricular canal, along with myocytes derived from the developing atrial septum. The atrioventricular bundle and lower nodal cells are derived from ventricular myocardium.