Specific cell and tissue interactions drive the formation and function of the vertebrate cardiovascular system. Although much attention has been focused on the muscular components of the developing heart, the endocardium plays a key role in the formation of a functioning heart. Endocardial cells exhibit heterogeneity that allows them to participate in events such as the formation of the valves, septation of the outflow tract, and trabeculation. Here we review, the contributions of the endocardium to cardiovascular development and outline useful approaches developed in the chick and mouse that have revealed endocardial cell heterogeneity, the signaling molecules that direct endocardial cell behavior, and how these insights have contributed to our understanding of cardiovascular development and disease.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.