• cardiac development;
  • vascular development;
  • extracellular matrix;
  • cell–cell interactions;
  • cell–ECM interactions;
  • congenital heart defects


Cardiac development is reliant upon the spatial and temporal regulation of both genetic and chemical signals. Central to the communication of these signals are direct interactions between cells and their surrounding environment. The extracellular matrix (ECM) plays an integral role in cell communication and tissue growth throughout development by providing both structural support and chemical signaling factors. The present review discusses elements of cell–cell and cell–ECM interactions involved in cardiogenesis, and how disruption of these interactions can result in numerous heart defects. Examining the relationships between cells and their immediate environment has implications for novel and existing therapeutic strategies to combating congenital disorders. Birth Defects Research (Part C) 90:1–7, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.