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Development. 1987 Feb;99(2):261-72.

Interactions between somite cells: the formation and maintenance of segment boundaries in the chick embryo.

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  • 1Department of Human Anatomy, Oxford, UK.


We have investigated the interactions between the cells of the rostral and caudal halves of the chick somite by carrying out grafting experiments. The rostral half-sclerotome was identified by its ability to support axon outgrowth and neural crest cell migration, and the caudal half by the binding of peanut agglutinin and the absence of motor axons and neural crest cells. Using the chick-quail chimaera technique we also studied the fate of each half-somite. It was found that when half-somites are placed adjacent to one another, their interactions obey a precise rule: sclerotome cells from like halves mix with each other, while those from unlike halves do not; when cells from unlike halves are adjacent to one another, a border is formed. Grafting quail half-somites into chicks showed that the fates of the rostral and caudal sclerotome halves are similar: both give rise to bone and cartilage of the vertebral column, as well as to intervertebral connective tissue. We suggest that the rostrocaudal subdivision serves to maintain the segmental arrangement when the mesenchymal sclerotome dissociates, so that the nervous system, vasculature and possibly vertebrae are patterned correctly.

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