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Curr Biol. 1995 Jul 1;5(7):807-13.

Tail bud determination in the vertebrate embryo.

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Department of Zoology, Oxford University, UK.



Although as humans we lose our tails in the second month of embryonic development, a persistent tail is a prominent structural feature of most adult vertebrates. Indeed, the post-anal tail is part of the definition of a chordate. The internal organization of the developing tail--with neural tube, notochord and paired somites--is the same as that of the main body axis, so it can be expected that the mechanism of tail formation has a close relationship to that of the vertebrate body plan as a whole. Despite this, almost nothing is known about how tails arise.


We present evidence to show that the tail bud of Xenopus laevis arises as the result of interactions between distinct zones of tissue at the posterior of the embryo at the neurula stage. These tissue interactions were demonstrated by manipulations of exogastrulae, which normally form no tail, and by transplantation experiments performed on the neural plate of stage 13 neurulae, whereby embryos with supernumary tails were produced.


We propose a new model of tail bud determination, termed the NMC model, to explain the results we have obtained. In this model, the tail bud is initiated by an interaction between two territories in the neural plate and a posterior mesodermal territory.

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