Science, Vol.340, No.6133, 744-748, 2013
Early Mesodermal Cues Assign Avian Cardiac Pacemaker Fate Potential in a Tertiary Heart Field
Cardiac pacemaker cells autonomously generate electrical impulses that initiate and maintain the rhythmic contraction of the heart. Although the majority of heart cells are thought to originate from the primary and secondary heart fields, we found that chick pacemaker cells arise from a discrete region of mesoderm outside of these fields. Shortly after gastrulation, canonical Wnts promote the recruitment of mesodermal cells within this region into the pacemaker lineage. These findings suggest that cardiac pacemaker cells are physically segregated and molecularly programmed in a tertiary heart field prior to the onset of cardiac morphogenesis.