Outflow tract endocardium links the atrioventricular lining, which develops from cardiogenic plate mesoderm, with aortic arches, whose lining forms collectively from splanchnopleuric endothelial channels, local endothelial vesicles, and invasive angioblasts. At two discrete sites, outflow tract endocardial cells participate in morphogenetic events not within the repertoire of neighboring endocardium: they form mesenchymal precursors of endocardial cushions. The objectives of this research were to document the history of outflow tract endocardium in the avian embryo immediately prior to development of the heart, and to ascertain which, if any, aspects of this history are necessary to acquire cushion-forming potential. Paraxial and lateral mesodermal tissues from between somitomere 3 (midbrain level) and somite 5 were grafted from quail into chick embryos at 3–10 somite stages and, after 2–5 days incubation, survivors were fixed and sectioned. Tissues were stained with the Feulgen reaction to visualize the quail nuclear marker or with antibodies (monoclonal QH1 or polyclonals) that recognize quail but not chick cells. Many quail endothelial cells lose the characteristic nuclear heterochromatin marker, but they retain the species-specific epitope recognized by these antibodies. Precursors of outflow tract but not atrioventricular endocardium are present in cephalic paraxial and lateral mesoderm, with their greatest concentration at the level of the otic placode. Furthermore, the ventral movement of individual angiogenic cells is a normal antecedent to outflow tract formation. Cardiac myocytes were never derived from grafted head mesoderm. Thus, unlike the atrioventricular regions of the heart, outflow tract endocardial and myocardial precursors do not share a congruent embryonic history. The results of heterotopic transplantation, in which trunk paraxial or lateral mesoderm was grafted into the head, were identical, including the formation of cushion mesenchyme. This means that cushion positioning and inductive influences must operate locally within the developing heart tubes.

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