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The structure of the mouse heart in late fetal stages

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Because of the opportunities for genetic manipulation, the mouse has become the major species for models of human disease. Recently, targeted and insertional mutations have induced many novel models of developmental abnormality, including several of congenital heart defects. Interpretation and use of such models requires a precise understanding of the similarities and differences between mouse and human in terms of cardiac development and structure. To this end, we have characterised the late fetal mouse heart using scanning electron microscopy and serial histological sections. Right atrial anatomy is dominated by the venous valves, which separate the orifices of the caval veins from the musculature of the primary atrium. Their structure and location suggest that the pulmonary vein is unlikely to develop from the venous sinus. The pectinated wall of the appendage serves to distinguish the morphologically right atrium, in that it runs around the atrioventricular junction, from the left atrium in which this vestibular region is smooth-walled. The persistence of the left superior caval vein draining to the right atrium, along with a solitary opening for the pulmonary vein in the left atrium, distinguishes the atrial anatomy of the mouse from that of the human. The flap valve of the oval foramen is extensive and represents the embryonic primary atrial septum. The superior rim of the foramen is an infolding of the atrial roof, as has been described in the human, showing that, contrary to orthodox opinion, there is no extensive formation of a secondary atrial septum. The region of the membranous septum seen in the human heart is a relatively thick structure in the late fetal mouse, and is located exclusively in an atrioventricular position. Unlike the human, there is little distinction between the apical trabeculations of the left and right ventricles of the mouse heart.

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Webb, S., Brown, N.A. & Anderson, R.H. The structure of the mouse heart in late fetal stages. Anat Embryol 194, 37–47 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00196313

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Key words

  • Cardiac morphology
  • Development
  • Scanning electron microscopy