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Dev Biol. 2008 Jun 15;318(2):289-302. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2008.03.027. Epub 2008 Mar 28.

FGF signals from the nasal pit are necessary for normal facial morphogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Oral Health Sciences, Life Sciences Institute, The University of British Columbia, 2350 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver BC, Canada.


Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) are required for brain, pharyngeal arch, suture and neural crest cell development and mutations in the FGF receptors have been linked to human craniofacial malformations. To study the functions of FGF during facial morphogenesis we locally perturb FGF signalling in the avian facial prominences with FGFR antagonists, foil barriers and FGF2 protein. We tested 4 positions with antagonist-soaked beads but only one of these induced a facial defect. Embryos treated in the lateral frontonasal mass, adjacent to the nasal slit developed cleft beaks. The main mechanisms were a block in proliferation and an increase in apoptosis in those areas that were most dependent on FGF signaling. We inserted foil barriers with the goal of blocking diffusion of FGF ligands out of the lateral edge of the frontonasal mass. The barriers induced an upregulation of the FGF target gene, SPRY2 compared to the control side. Moreover, these changes in expression were associated with deletions of the lateral edge of the premaxillary bone. To determine whether we could replicate the effects of the foil by increasing FGF levels, beads soaked in FGF2 were placed into the lateral edge of the frontonasal mass. There was a significant increase in proliferation and an expansion of the frontonasal mass but the skeletal defects were minor and not the same as those produced by the foil. Instead it is more likely that the foil repressed FGF signaling perhaps mediated by the increase in SPRY2 expression. In summary, we have found that the nasal slit is a source of FGF signals and the function of FGF is to stimulate proliferation in the cranial frontonasal mass. The FGF independent regions correlate with those previously determined to be dependent on BMP signaling. We propose a new model whereby, FGF-dependent microenvironments exist in the cranial frontonasal mass and caudal maxillary prominence and these flank BMP-dependent regions. Coordination of the proliferation in these regions leads ultimately to normal facial morphogenesis.

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