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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2010 Aug;20(4):384-90. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2010.04.014. Epub 2010 May 27.

The temporal dynamics of vertebrate limb development, teratogenesis and evolution.

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  • 1Developmental Genetics, Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel Medical Faculty, Mattenstrasse 28, Basel, Switzerland.


Recent genetic and functional analysis of vertebrate limb development begins to reveal how the functions of particular genes and regulatory hierarchies can drastically change over time. The temporal and spatial interplay of the two instructive signalling centres are part of a larger signalling system that orchestrates limb bud morphogenesis in a rather self-regulatory manner. It appears that mesenchymal cells are specified early and subsequently, the progenitors for the different skeletal elements are expanded and determined progressively during outgrowth. Mutations and teratogens that disrupt distal progression of limb development most often cause death of the early-specified progenitors rather than altering their fates. The proliferative expansion and distal progression of paired appendage development was one of the main driving forces behind the transition from fin to limb buds during paired appendage evolution. Finally, the adaptive diversification or loss of modern tetrapod limbs in particular phyla or species appear to be a consequence of evolutionary tampering with the regulatory systems that control distal progression of limb development.

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