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Dev Biol. 2000 Dec 1;228(1):73-85.

Ectodermally derived FGF8 defines the maxillomandibular region in the early chick embryo: epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in the specification of the craniofacial ectomesenchyme.

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Department of Biology, Okayama University Faculty of Science, 3-1-1 Tsushimanaka, Okayama, 700-8530, Japan.


The most rostral cephalic crest cells in the chick embryo first populate ubiquitously in the rostroventral head. Before the influx of crest cells, the ventral head ectoderm expresses Fgf8 in two domains that correspond to the future mandibular arch. Bmp4 is expressed rostral and caudal to these domains. The rostral part of the Bmp4 domain develops into the rostral end of the maxillary process that corresponds to the transition between the maxillomandibular and premandibular regions. Thus, the distribution patterns of FGF8 and BMP4 appear to foreshadow the maxillomandibular region in the head ectoderm. In the ectomesenchyme of the pharyngula embryo, expression patterns of some homeobox genes overlap the distribution of their upstream growth factors. Dlx1 and Barx1, the targets of FGF8, are expressed in the mandibular ectomesenchyme, and Msx1, the target of BMP4, in its distal regions. Ectopic applications of FGF8 lead to shifted expression of the target genes as well as repatterning of the craniofacial primordia and of the trigeminal nerve branches. Focal injection of a lipophilic dye, DiI, showed that this shift was at least in part due to the posterior transformation of the original premandibular ectomesenchyme into the mandible, caused by the changed distribution of FGF8 that defines the mandibular region. We conclude that FGF8 in the early ectoderm defines the maxillomandibular region of the prepharyngula embryo, through epithelial-mesenchymal interactions and subsequent upregulation of homeobox genes in the local mesenchyme. BMP4 in the ventral ectoderm appears to limit the anterior expression of Fgf8. Ectopic application of BMP4 consistently diminished part of the mandibular arch.

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