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Developmental origin and morphogenesis of the diaphragm, an essential mammalian muscle

Sefton, Elizabeth M., Gallardo, Mirialys, Kardon, Gabrielle
Developmental biology 2018 v.440 pp. 64-73
axons, congenital abnormalities, diaphragm, embryo (animal), etiology, evolution, hernia, liver, mice, morphogenesis, nerve tissue, skeletal muscle
The diaphragm is a mammalian skeletal muscle essential for respiration and for separating the thoracic and abdominal cavities. Development of the diaphragm requires the coordinated development of muscle, muscle connective tissue, tendon, nerves, and vasculature that derive from different embryonic sources. However, defects in diaphragm development are common and the cause of an often deadly birth defect, Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). Here we comprehensively describe the normal developmental origin and complex spatial-temporal relationship between the different developing tissues to form a functional diaphragm using a developmental series of mouse embryos genetically and immunofluorescently labeled and analyzed in whole mount. We find that the earliest developmental events are the emigration of muscle progenitors from cervical somites followed by the projection of phrenic nerve axons from the cervical neural tube. Muscle progenitors and phrenic nerve target the pleuroperitoneal folds (PPFs), transient pyramidal-shaped structures that form between the thoracic and abdominal cavities. Subsequently, the PPFs expand across the surface of the liver to give rise to the muscle connective tissue and central tendon, and the leading edge of their expansion precedes muscle morphogenesis, formation of the vascular network, and outgrowth and branching of the phrenic nerve. Thus development and morphogenesis of the PPFs is critical for diaphragm formation. In addition, our data indicate that the earliest events in diaphragm development are critical for the etiology of CDH and instrumental to the evolution of the diaphragm. CDH initiates prior to E12.5 in mouse and suggests that defects in the early PPF formation or their ability to recruit muscle are an important source of CDH. Also, the recruitment of muscle progenitors from cervical somites to the nascent PPFs is uniquely mammalian and a key developmental innovation essential for the evolution of the muscularized diaphragm.