• Heart;
  • Development;
  • Immunocytochemistry;
  • Immunofluorescence;
  • Myofibril;
  • Cell polarity


The distribution of sarcomeric myosin heavy chain (MyHC) has been examined immunoctochemically in the presumptive myocardial cells of chicken embryos (stages 6–10) prior to the onset of the heart beat. Embryos were stained with monoclonal antibody MF20, a reagent which recognizes all chicken sarcomeric MyHCs (Bader et al., 1982), and then examined both in whole mount by immunofluorescence and in semithin, plastic-embedded sections following immunoperoxidase labeling. We observed that myosin could be detected as early as stage 7 (0–2 pairs of somites) in 29% of the 31 embryos examined, and by stage 8 (4 pairs of somites) more than 80% of the embryos were MF20+, Every embryo with 5 pairs of somites (stage 8+) labeled strongly with MF20. Labeling was first detected at stage 7 to 7+ as a diffuse fluorescent signal within pleomorphic cells of the splanchnic mesoderm located in two crescent-shaped regions bordering each side of the anterior intestinal portal (AIP). With progressive development, the two crescent-shaped regions merged at the apex of the AIP, and as the two heart tubes began fusion at stage 9, the MyHC+ regions extended cranially and medially. By somite stages 9–10, the myosin-positive cells completely encircled the heart tube. From stages 7 to 9 the myosin signal had no sarcomeric distribution; i.e., there were no MyHC striations nor periodic repeats evident in the presumptive myocytes until late stage 9 and stage 10. Semithin sections revealed that myosin was first distributed in apical regions of the myocytes, adjacent to the pericardial coelom. The implications of these findings for myocyte determination, differentiation and morphogenesis are discussed.© 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.