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Abnormal arterial-venous fusions and fate specification in mouse embryos lacking blood flow.

  • Author(s): Hwa, Jennifer J
  • Beckouche, Nathan
  • Huang, Lawrence
  • Kram, Yoseph
  • Lindskog, Henrik
  • Wang, Rong A
  • et al.

The functions of blood flow in the morphogenesis of mammalian arteries and veins are not well understood. We examined the development of the dorsal aorta (DA) and the cardinal vein (CV) in Ncx1 -/- mutants, which lack blood flow due to a deficiency in a sodium calcium ion exchanger expressed specifically in the heart. The mutant DA and CV were abnormally connected. The endothelium of the Ncx1 -/- mutant DA lacked normal expression of the arterial markers ephrin-B2 and Connexin-40. Notch1 activation, known to promote arterial specification, was decreased in mutant DA endothelial cells (ECs), which ectopically expressed the venous marker Coup-TFII. These findings suggest that flow has essential functions in the DA by promoting arterial and suppressing venous marker expression. In contrast, flow plays a lesser role in the CV, because expression of arterial-venous markers in CV ECs was not as dramatically affected in Ncx1 -/- mutants. We propose a molecular mechanism by which blood flow mediates DA and CV morphogenesis, by regulating arterial-venous specification of DA ECs to ensure proper separation of the developing DA and CV.

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