Questions on the embryonic origin and developmental significance of the epicardium did not receive much recognition for more than a century. It was generally thought that the epicardium was derived from the outermost layer of the primitive myocardium of the early embryonic heart tube. During the past few years, however, there has been an increasing interest in the development of the epicardium. This was caused by a series of new embryological data. The first data showed that the epicardium did not derive from the primitive myocardium but from a primarily extracardiac primordium, called the proepicardial serosa. Subsequent data then suggested that the proepicardial serosa and the newly formed epicardium provided nearly all cellular elements of the subepicardial and intermyocardial connective tissue, and of the coronary vasculature. Recent data even suggest important modulatory roles of the epicardium and of other proepicardium-derived cells in the differentiation of the embryonic myocardium and cardiac conduction system. The present paper reviews our current knowledge on the origin and embryonic development of the epicardium.
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