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Development. 2002 Oct;129(20):4855-66.

Axial progenitors with extensive potency are localised to the mouse chordoneural hinge.

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Centre for Genome Research, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JQ, UK.


Elongation of the mouse anteroposterior axis depends on a small population of progenitors initially located in the primitive streak and later in the tail bud. Gene expression and lineage tracing have shown that there are many features common to these progenitor tissues throughout axial elongation. However, the identity and location of the progenitors is unclear. We show by lineage tracing that the descendants of 8.5 d.p.c. node and anterior primitive streak which remain in the tail bud are located in distinct territories: (1) ventral node descendants are located in the widened posterior end of the notochord; and (2) descendants of anterior streak are located in both the tail bud mesoderm, and in the posterior end of the neurectoderm. We show that cells from the posterior neurectoderm are fated to give rise to mesoderm even after posterior neuropore closure. The posterior end of the notochord, together with the ventral neurectoderm above it, is thus topologically equivalent to the chordoneural hinge region defined in Xenopus and chick. A stem cell model has been proposed for progenitors of two of the axial tissues, the myotome and spinal cord. Because it was possible that labelled cells in the tail bud represented stem cells, tail bud mesoderm and chordoneural hinge were grafted to 8.5 d.p.c. primitive streak to compare their developmental potency. This revealed that cells from the bulk of the tail bud mesoderm are disadvantaged in such heterochronic grafts from incorporating into the axis and even when they do so, they tend to contribute to short stretches of somites suggesting that tail bud mesoderm is restricted in potency. By contrast, cells from the chordoneural hinge of up to 12.5 d.p.c. embryos contribute efficiently to regions of the axis formed after grafting to 8.5 d.p.c. embryos, and also repopulate the tail bud. These cells were additionally capable of serial passage through three successive generations of embryos in culture without apparent loss of potency. This potential for self-renewal in chordoneural hinge cells strongly suggests that stem cells are located in this region.

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