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Differentiation. 2001 Dec;69(2-3):91-9.

"Fingering" the vertebrate limb.

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Division of Cell & Developmental Biology, School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, Great Britain.


A detailed and precise picture is being pieced together about how the pattern of digits develops in vertebrate limbs. What is particularly exciting is that it will soon be possible to trace the process all the way from establishment of a signalling centre in a small bud of undifferentiated cells right through to final limb anatomy. The development of the vertebrate limb is a traditional model in which to explore mechanisms involved in pattern formation, and there is accelerating knowledge about the genes involved. One reason why the limb is holding its place in the post-genomic age is that it is rich in pre-genomic embryology. Here, we will focus on recent findings about the aspect of vertebrate limb development concerned with digit pattern across the anteroposterior axis of the limb. This process is controlled by a signalling region in the early limb bud known as the polarizing region. Interactions between polarizing region cells and other cells in the limb bud ensure that a thumb develops at one edge of the hand (anterior) and a little finger at the other (posterior).

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