Background: Classic theories descibe that the common pulmonary vein develops as an outgrowth from either the sinus venosus or atrial segment. Recent studies show that the pulmonary veins are connected to the sinu-atrial region before its differentiation into a sinus venosus and atrial segment.
Methods: The development of the sinu-atrial region with regard to the developing common pulmonary vein and the growth of the atrial septum was investigated in avian embryos, using both scanning electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry. Embryos ranging between stage HH12 and HH28 were incubated with QH-1 that recognizes quail endothelial cells and precursors, HNK-1, that appears in this study to detect the myocardium of the sinus venosus, or with HHF-35, being specific for muscle actins. Also vascular casts of the heart were produced by injecting prepolymerized Mercox into the vascular system.
Results: In preseptation stages the common pulmonary vein drains into the left part of the sinus venosus, that is clearly demarcated by the sinuatrial fold and HNK-1 expression. During atrial septation the left part of the sinus venosus, in contrast to the right part, loses its HNK-1 antigen from stage HH23 onwards, while at the same time the sinu-atrial fold in the left atrial dorsal wall flattens and disappears. From stage HH25 onwards HNK-1 expression is restricted to the right part of the sinus venosus, which contributes to the right atrium. The myocardial atrial septum never expresses the HNK-1 antigen, suggesting that the septum is of atrial origin.
Discussion: It appeared that the sinus venosus does not only contribute to the sinus venarum of the right atrium, but also to the left atrium. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.