The right ventricle, outflow tract, and ventricular septum comprise a restricted expression domain within the secondary/anterior heart field.
The vertebrate heart arises from the fusion of bilateral regions of anterior mesoderm to form a linear heart tube. Recent studies in mouse and chick have demonstrated that a second cardiac progenitor population, known as the anterior or secondary heart field, is progressively added to the heart at the time of cardiac looping. While it is clear that this second field contributes to the myocardium, its precise boundaries, other lineages derived from this population, and its contributions to the postnatal heart remain unclear. In this study, we used regulatory elements from the mouse mef2c gene to direct the expression of Cre recombinase exclusively in the anterior heart field and its derivatives in transgenic mice. By crossing these mice, termed mef2c-AHF-Cre, to Cre-dependent lacZ reporter mice, we generated a fate map of the embryonic, fetal, and postnatal heart. These studies show that the endothelial and myocardial components of the outflow tract, right ventricle, and ventricular septum are derivatives of mef2c-AHF-Cre expressing cells within the anterior heart field and its derivatives. These studies also show that the atria, epicardium, coronary vessels, and the majority of outflow tract smooth muscle are not derived from this anterior heart field population. Furthermore, a transgene marker specific for the anterior heart field is expressed in the common ventricular chamber in mef2c mutant mice, suggesting that the cardiac looping defect in these mice is not due to a failure in anterior heart field addition to the heart. Finally, the Cre transgenic mice described here will be a crucial tool for conditional gene inactivation exclusively in the anterior heart field and its derivatives.
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