The relation between vascular development and translocation of the splanchnic mesodermal layers was studied in presomite to 20-somite quail embryos by scanning electron microscopy. In addition, serially sectioned embryos were stained immunohistochemically with monoclonal antibodies (αQH1 or αMB1) specific for endothelial and hemopoietic cells.
By the formation of the foregut the anterior borders of the two splanchnic mesodermal layers of a presomite embryo are translocated to the lateral and ventral sides of the foregut and fuse in the ventral midline of a 4-somite embryo. Meanwhile the splanchnic mesoderm differentiates into a splanchnic mesothelial layer and a plexus of endothelial cells, facing the endoderm.
From 4 somites onward the foregut is covered by a single endothelial plexus. At first the endothelial precursors bordering the anterior intestinal portal and those in the area of the ventral mesocardium lumenize, subsequently giving rise to the endocardium of the heart tube. Hereafter, the pharyngeal arch arteries and the dorsal aortae develop from the remaining precursors. During formation of the pharyngeal arches, the pharyngeal arch arteries maintain their connections with the splanchnic plexus through the developing ventral pharyngeal veins.
After disappearance of the dorsal mesocardium, the midpharyngeal endothelial strand, which is a longitudinal strand of proendocardial cells, remains connected to the foregut. This strand will contribute to the formation of the pulmonary venous drainage into the left atrium.
A bilateral accumulation of cardiac jelly developing between the promyocardium and proendocardial plexus only suggests that the heart develops from two tubes. The proendocardial layer, however, is not divided by the ventral mesocardium but initially forms just one endocardial heart tube. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.