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Biol Open. 2012 Nov 15;1(11):1146-52. doi: 10.1242/bio.20122592. Epub 2012 Sep 18.

Chicken primordial germ cells use the anterior vitelline veins to enter the embryonic circulation.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Leiden University Medical Center , Einthovenweg 20, 2333 ZC Leiden , The Netherlands.


During gastrulation, chicken primordial germ cells (PGCs) are present in an extraembryonic region of the embryo from where they migrate towards the genital ridges. This is also observed in mammals, but in chicken the vehicle used by the migratory PGCs is the vascular system. We have analysed the migratory pathway of chicken PGCs, focusing on the period of transition from the extraembryonic region to the intraembryonic vascular system.Our findings show that at Hamburger and Hamilton developmental stage HH12-HH14 the majority of PGCs concentrate axially in the sinus terminalis and favour transport axially via the anterior vitelline veins into the embryonic circulation. Moreover, directly blocking the blood flow through the anterior vitelline veins resulted in an accumulation of PGCs in the anterior region and a decreased number of PGCs in the genital ridges. We further confirmed the key role for the anterior vitelline veins in the correct migration of PGCs using an ex ovo culture method that resulted in defective morphogenetic development of the anterior vitelline veins.We propose a novel model for the migratory pathway of chicken PGCs whereby the anterior vitelline veins play a central role at the extraembryonic and embryonic interface. The chicken model of PGC migration through the vasculature may be a powerful tool to study the process of homing (inflammation and metastasis) due to the striking similarities in regulatory signaling pathways (SDF1-CXCR4) and the transient role of the vasculature.


Chicken; Embryo; Extraembryonic tissue; Migration; Primordial germ cells; Vasculatory system

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