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Dev Biol. 1988 Jun;127(2):266-86.

Proximal tissues and patterned neurite outgrowth at the lumbosacral level of the chick embryo: partial and complete deletion of the somite.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109.


The development of patterned axon outgrowth and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) formation was examined after partially or totally removing chick somitic mesoderm. Since the dermamyotome is not essential and a full complement of limb muscles developed, alterations in neural patterns could be ascribed to deletion of sclerotome. When somitic tissue was completely removed, axons extended and DRG formed, but in an unsegmented pattern. Therefore the somite does not elicit outgrowth of axons or migration of DRG precursors, it is not a manditory substratum and it is not required for DRG condensation. These results suggest that posterior sclerotome is relatively inhibitory to invasion, an inhibition that is released when sclerotome is absent. When somites were partially deleted, axonal segmentation was not lost proportionally with the amount of sclerotome removed, suggesting that properties that may vary with sclerotome volume (such as diffusible cues) do not play a primary role. Instead, spinal nerves lost segmentation only when ventral sclerotome was deleted, regardless of whether dorsal sclerotome was or was not removed. This strongly suggests that axonal segmentation is imposed by direct interactions between growth cones and extracellular matrices or surfaces sclerotome cells. While DRG tended to be normally segmented when ventral sclerotome was deleted and to lose segmentation when dorsomedial sclerotome was absent, a coordinate loss of DRG segmentation with sclerotome volume could not be ruled out. However it is clear that axonal and DRG segmentation are independent. Observations on a subset of embryos in which the notochord was displaced relative to the spinal cord suggest that the ventromedial sclerotome surrounding the notochord inhibits axon advance. Posterior and ventromedial sclerotome are hypothesized to act as barriers to axon outgrowth due to some feature of their common cartilaginous development. Specific innervation patterns were also examined. When the notochord was displaced toward the control limb, axons on this side made and corrected projection errors, suggesting that the notochord can influence the precision of axonal pathway selection. In contrast, motor axons that entered the limb on all operated sides innervated muscle with their normal precision despite the absence of the somite and axonal segmentation. Therefore, the somite and the process of spinal nerve segmentation are largely irrelevant to the specificity of motoneuron projection.

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