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Cell. 2003 Apr 18;113(2):235-48.

A somitic compartment of tendon progenitors.

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Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


We demonstrate that the tendons associated with the axial skeleton derive from a heretofore unappreciated, fourth compartment of the somites. Scleraxis (Scx), a bHLH transcription factor, marks this somitic tendon progenitor population at its inception, and is continuously expressed through differentiation into the mature tendons. Two earlier-formed somitic compartments, the sclerotome and myotome, interact to establish this fourth Scx-positive compartment. The tendon progenitors are induced at the sclerotome's edge, at the expense of skeletogenic Pax1 positive cells and in response to FGF signaling in the adjacent myotome. The tendon primordia thus form in a location abutting the two tissues that the mature tendons must ultimately connect. Tendon progenitor formation may reveal a general mechanism for the specification of other somitic subcompartments.

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