The heart originates from splanchnic mesoderm and to a lesser extent from neural crest cells. The HNK-1 monoclonal antibody is a marker for early migrating neural crest cells, but reacts also with structures which are not derived from the neural crest. We investigated whether heart structures are HNK-1 positive before neural crest cells colonize these target tissues. To that end, we determined the HNK-1 antigen expression in the developing avian heart on immunohistochemical sections and on Western blots. The HNK-1 immunoreactivity in the developing chick heart is compared with data from literature cm the localization of neural crest cells in chick/quail chimeras. Structures with neural crest contribution, including parts of the early outflow tract and the related endocardial cushions, the primordia of the semilunar valve leaflets and the aorticopulmonary septum were HNK-1 positive. Furthermore, other structures were HNK-1 positive, such as the atrioventricular cushions, the wall of the sinus venosus at stage HH 15 through 21, parts of the endocardium at E3, parts of the myocardium at E6, and the extracellular matrix in the myocardial base of the semilunar valves at E14. HNK-1 expression was particularly observed in morphologically dynamic regions such as the developing valves, the outflow tract cushion, the developing conduction system and the autonomie nervous system of the heart. We observed that atrioventricular endocardial cushions are HNK-1 positive. We conclude that: a HNK-1 immunoreactivity does not always coincide with the presence of neural crest cells or their derivatives; (2) the outflow tract cushions and atrioventricular endocardial cushions are HNK-1 positive before neural crest cells are expected (stage HH 19) to enter the endocardial cushions of the outflow tract; (3) the observed spatio-temporal HNK-1 patterns observed in the developing heart correspond with various HNK-1 antigens. Apart from a constant pattern of HNK-1 antigens during development, stage-dependent HNK-1 antigens were also found.

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Anatomy and Embryology
Department of Neurology

Luider, T.M, Bravenboer, N, Meijers, C, van der Kamp, A.W.M, Tibboel, D, & Poelmann, R.E. (1993). The distribution and characterization of HNK-1 antigens in the developing avian heart. Anatomy and Embryology, 188(3), 307–316. doi:10.1007/BF00188221