• myocardial development;
  • cardiomyocytes;
  • mouse;
  • interstitial Cajal-like cells;
  • cardiac stromal cells;
  • telocytes


Recent evidence indicates that the adult heart contains sub-epicardial cardiogenic niches where cardiac stem cells and stromal supporting cells reside together. Such stromal cells include a special population, previously identified as interstitial Cajal-like cells and recently termed telocytes because of their long, slender processes (telopodes) embracing the myocardial precursors. Specific stromal cells, presumptively originated from the epicardium, have been postulated to populate the developing heart where they are thought to play a role in its morphogenesis. This study is designed to investigate the occurrence of telocytes in the developing heart and provide clues to better understand their role as supporting cells involved in the architectural organization of the myocardium during heart development. Our results showed that stromal cells with the immunophenotypical (vimentin, CD34) and ultrastructural features of telocytes were present in the mouse heart since early embryonic to adult life, as well as in primary cultures of neonatal mouse cardiac cells. These cells formed an extended network of telopodes which closely embraced the growing cardiomyocytes and appeared to contribute to the aggregation of cardiomyocyte clusters in vitro. In conclusion, the present findings strongly suggest that, during heart development, stromal cells identifiable as telocytes could play a nursing and guiding role for myocardial precursors to form the correct three-dimensional tissue pattern and contribute to compaction of the embryonic myocardial trabeculae. It is tempting to speculate that telocytes could be a novel, possible target for therapeutic strategies aimed at potentiating cardiac repair and regeneration after ischemic injury.