• heart;
  • development;
  • mesenchyme;
  • endocardium;
  • neural crest;
  • epicardium;
  • second heart field;
  • atrioventricular septal defect


The development of the embryonic heart is dependent upon the generation and incorporation of different mesenchymal subpopulations that derive from intra- and extra-cardiac sources, including the endocardium, epicardium, neural crest, and second heart field. Each of these populations plays a crucial role in cardiovascular development, in particular in the formation of the valvuloseptal apparatus. Notwithstanding shared mechanisms by which these cells are generated, their fate and function differ profoundly by their originating source. While most of our early insights into the origin and fate of the cardiac mesenchyme has come from experimental studies in avian model systems, recent advances in transgenic mouse technology has enhanced our ability to study these cell populations in the mammalian heart. In this article, we will review the current understanding of the role of cardiac mesenchyme in cardiac morphogenesis and discuss several new paradigms based on recent studies in the mouse. Developmental Dynamics 237:2804–2819, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.