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Development. 2002 Oct;129(20):4785-96.

Dual origin of the floor plate in the avian embryo.

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Institut d'Embryologie Cellulaire et Mol├ęculaire, CNRS and Coll├Ęge de France, UMR 7128, 49bis Avenue de la Belle Gabrielle, 94736 Nogent-sur-Marne Cedex, France.


Molecular analysis carried out on quail-chick chimeras, in which quail Hensen's node was substituted for its chick counterpart at the five- to six-somite stage (ss), showed that the floor plate of the avian neural tube is composed of distinct areas: (1) a median one (medial floor plate or MFP) derived from Hensen's node and characterised by the same gene expression pattern as the node cells (i.e. expression of HNF3beta and Shh to the exclusion of genes early expressed in the neural ectoderm such as CSox1); and (2) lateral regions that are differentiated from the neuralised ectoderm (CSox1 positive) and form the lateral floor plate (LFP). LFP cells are induced by the MFP to express HNF3beta transiently, Shh continuously and other floor-plate characteristic genes such as NETRIN: In contrast to MFP cells, LFP cells also express neural markers such as Nkx2.2 and Sim1. This pattern of avian floor-plate development presents some similarities to floor-plate formation in zebrafish embryos. We also demonstrate that, although MFP and LFP have different embryonic origins in normal development, one can experimentally obtain a complete floor plate in the neural epithelium by the inductive action of either a notochord or a MFP. The competence of the neuroepithelium to respond to notochord or MFP signals is restricted to a short time window, as only the posterior-most region of the neural plate of embryos younger than 15 ss is able to differentiate a complete floor plate comprising MFP and LFP. Moreover, MFP differentiation requires between 4 and 5 days of exposure to the inducing tissues. Under the same conditions LFP and SHH-producing cells only induce LFP-type cells. These results show that the capacity to induce a complete floor plate is restricted to node-derived tissues and probably involves a still unknown factor that is not SHH, the latter being able to induce only LFP characteristics in neuralised epithelium.

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