Endocardium is necessary for cardiomyocyte movement during heart tube assembly.
Embryonic heart formation requires the union of bilateral populations of cardiomyocytes and their reorganization into a simple tube. Little is known about the morphogenetic mechanisms that coordinate assembly of the heart tube and determine its dimensions. Using time-lapse confocal microscopy to track individual cardiomyocyte movements in the zebrafish embryo, we identify two morphologically and genetically separable phases of cell movement that coordinate heart tube assembly. First, all cardiomyocytes undergo coherent medial movement. Next, peripherally located cardiomyocytes change their direction of movement, angling toward the endocardial precursors and thereby establishing the initial circumference of the nascent heart tube. These two phases of cardiomyocyte behavior are independently regulated. Furthermore, we find that myocardial-endocardial interactions influence the second phase by regulating the induction, direction and duration of cardiomyocyte movement. Thus, the endocardium plays a crucial early role in cardiac morphogenesis, organizing cardiomyocytes into a configuration appropriate for heart tube assembly. Together, our data reveal a dynamic cellular mechanism by which tissue interactions establish organ architecture.