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Differentiation. 1991 Jul;47(2):61-8.

Effects of extracellular matrix components on the differentiation of chick embryo tail bud mesenchyme in culture.

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Department of Physiology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


The mesenchymal cells of the chick tail bud comprise the remains of Hensen's node and the primitive streak after gastrulation. This mass of cells, situated at the caudal limit of the chick embryo, is morphologically homogeneous but pluripotent, with the ability to differentiate into a variety of tissues that are both ectoderm- and mesoderm-derived elsewhere in the embryo. These tissues include neuroectoderm, neurons, myoblasts and chondrocytes. As the factors regulating the differentiation of tail bud mesenchyme into so many cell types are unclear, and because the extracellular matrix (ECM) is known to have a profound effect on cellular differentiation in many embryonic systems, we studied the differentiation of tail bud mesenchyme explanted onto a variety of different ECM components as substrata. We report that the histogenetic potential of isolated tail buds in culture compares favourably with that in situ. Using various antibody markers, we have demonstrated that tail bud mesenchyme cultured upon different ECM components as substrata is able to differentiate into neurons, neuroepithelium, melanocytes, muscle and cartilage. Laminin and laminin-containing substrata (Matrigel) were found to promote the differentiation of neural crest derivatives (neurons and melanocytes) and neuroepithelial cells; type I collagen promoted both myogenesis and chondrogenesis; while type IV collagen promoted myogenesis only. We have therefore demonstrated that differentiation of tail bud mesenchyme in vitro is substratum-dependent.

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