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Nature. 2001 Dec 20-27;414(6866):909-12.

Noggin and retinoic acid transform the identity of avian facial prominences.

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Department of Oral Health Science, Faculty of Dentistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z3.


The signals that determine body part identity in vertebrate embryos are largely unknown, with some exceptions such as those for teeth and digits. The vertebrate face is derived from small buds of tissue, facial prominences, that surround the embryonic oral cavity. In chicken embryos, the skeleton of the upper beak is derived from the frontonasal mass and maxillary prominences. Here we show that bone morphogenetic proteins (Bmps) and the vitamin A derivative, retinoic acid (RA), are used to specify the identity of the frontonasal mass and maxillary prominences. Implanting two beads adjacent to the stage-15 presumptive maxillary field, one soaked in the Bmp antagonist Noggin and one soaked in RA, induces a duplicate set of frontonasal mass skeletal elements in place of maxillary bones. We also show that the duplicated beak is due to transformation of the maxillary prominence into a second frontonasal mass and not due to ectopic migration of cells or splitting of the normal frontonasal mass. Thus the levels of Bmp and RA determine whether specific regions of the face form maxillary or frontonasal mass derivatives.

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