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Development. 1999 Jul;126(13):2921-34.

Axial mesendoderm refines rostrocaudal pattern in the chick nervous system.

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Human Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, South Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3QX, UK.


There has long been controversy concerning the role of the axial mesoderm in the induction and rostrocaudal patterning of the vertebrate nervous system. Here we investigate the neural inducing and regionalising properties of defined rostrocaudal regions of head process/prospective notochord in the chick embryo by juxtaposing these tissues with extraembryonic epiblast or neural plate explants. We localise neural inducing signals to the emerging head process and using a large panel of region-specific neural markers, show that different rostrocaudal levels of the head process derived from headfold stage embryos can induce discrete regions of the central nervous system. However, we also find that rostral and caudal head process do not induce expression of any of these molecular markers in explants of the neural plate. During normal development the head process emerges beneath previously induced neural plate, which we show has already acquired some rostrocaudal character. Our findings therefore indicate that discrete regions of axial mesendoderm at headfold stages are not normally responsible for the establishment of rostrocaudal pattern in the neural plate. Strikingly however, we do find that caudal head process inhibits expression of rostral genes in neural plate explants. These findings indicate that despite the ability to induce specific rostrocaudal regions of the CNS de novo, signals provided by the discrete regions of axial mesendoderm do not appear to establish regional differences, but rather refine the rostrocaudal character of overlying neuroepithelium.

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