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Keywords:

  • sturgeon;
  • Acipenser naccarii;
  • heart;
  • epicardium;
  • sino-ventricular ligament

Abstract

This article reports on the development of the epicardium in alevins of the sturgeon Acipenser naccarii, aged 4–25 days post-hatching (dph). Epicardial development starts at 4 dph with formation of the proepicardium (PE) that arises as a bilateral structure at the boundary between the sinus venosus and the duct of Cuvier. The PE later becomes a midline organ arising from the wall of the sinus venosus and ending at the junction between the liver, the sinus venosus and the transverse septum. This relative displacement appears related to venous reorganization at the caudal pole of the heart. The mode and time of epicardium formation is different in the various heart chambers. The conus epicardium develops through migration of a cohesive epithelium from the PE villi, and is completed through bleb-like aggregates detached from the PE. The ventricular epicardium develops a little later, and mostly through bleb-like aggregates. The bulbus epicardium appears to derive from the mesothelium located at the junction between the outflow tract and the pericardial cavity. Strikingly, formation of the epicardium of the atrium and the sinus venosus is a very late event occurring after the third month of development. Associated to the PE, a sino-ventricular ligament develops as a permanent connection. This ligament contains venous vessels that communicate the subepicardial coronary plexus and the sinus venosus, and carries part of the heart innervation. The development of the sturgeon epicardium shares many features with that of other vertebrate groups. This speaks in favour of conservative mechanisms across the evolutionary scale. Anat Rec, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.