Morphological analysis of the hagfish heart. I. The ventricle, the arterial connection and the ventral aorta

José M. Icardo, Elvira Colvee, Sarah Schorno, Eugenia R. Lauriano, Douglas S. Fudge, Chris N. Glover, Giacomo Zaccone

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12 Citations (Scopus)


We have studied the heart in three species of hagfish: Myxine glutinosa, Eptatretus stoutii, and Eptatretus cirrhatus and report about the morphology of the ventricle, the arterial connection and the ventral aorta. On the whole, the hagfish heart lacks outflow tract components, the ventricle and atrium adopt a dorso-caudal rather than a ventro-dorsal relationship, and the sinus venosus opens into the left side of the atrium. This may indicate a "defective" cardiac looping during embryogenesis. The ventral aorta is elongated in M. glutinosa and E. stoutii but sac-like in E. cirrhatus. The ventricles are entirely trabeculated. The myocytes show a low myofibrillar content and junctional complexes formed by fascia adherens and desmosomes. Gap junctions could not be demonstrated. Myocardial cells in M. glutinosa contain numerous lipid droplets. These droplets are less numerous in E. stoutii and practically absent in E. cirrhatus, suggesting different metabolic requirements. Other cell types present in the ventricle are chromaffin cells and granular leukocytes that contain rod-shaped granules. The ventricle-aorta connection is guarded by a bicuspid valve with left and right, pocket-like leaflets. The leaflets extend from the cranial end of the ventricle into the aorta but the junction is asymmetrical. This junction contains a ganglion-like structure in E. cirrhatus. The ventral aorta shows endothelial, media, and adventitial layers. The media contains smooth muscle cells surrounded by dense bands formed by tightly-packed extracellular filaments. In addition, a short number of elastic fibers are observed in M. glutinosa and E. stoutii. Cellular and extracellular elements are more loosely organized in the aorta of E. cirrhatus. The collagenous adventitia contains ganglion-like cells in the three species. In the absence of nerves, chromaffin and ganglion-like cells may control the activity of the myocardium and that of the aortic smooth muscle cells, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-340
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar. 2016


  • Aorta
  • Eptatretus cirrhatus
  • Eptatretus stoutii
  • Hagfish
  • Heart
  • Myxine glutinosa


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