Apoptosis peaks within the cardiac outflow tract (OFT) myocardium during chick development (stage 30-31) and coincides with dramatic remodeling of the OFT 4. Apoptosis was assayed by TUNEL, Annexin V, transmission electron microscopy, and Lysotracker Red (Fig. 1-4). These assays reveal that as many as 92% of the apoptotic cells express cardiomyocyte markers. The timing of apoptosis suggests that it may occur to allow proper alignment of the great vessels over their respective ventricles. Our current aims are to determine the consequences of disturbing OFT cardiomyocyte cell death to heart morphogenesis and to elucidate the cellular and molecular components that initiate and regulate this high level of apoptosis.
To enhance apoptosis in the OFT myocardium, recombinant adenoviruses were injected into the pericardial space to deliver the gene for the death ligand Fas-L to the cardiomyocytes of chicken embryos prior to the stages when OFT remodeling occurs.