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Dev Biol. 1997 Jan 1;181(1):102-15.

State of commitment of prospective neural plate and prospective mesoderm in late gastrula/early neurula stages of avian embryos.

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Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City 84132, USA.


We examined the ability of epiblast regions of known prospective fate from the late gastrula/early neurula stage of avian embryos to self-differentiate when placed heterotopically, testing their state of commitment. Three sites were examined: paranodal prospective neural plate ectoderm, containing cells fated to form a portion of the lateral wall of the neural tube at essentially all rostrocaudal levels of the neuraxis; prospective mesoderm from the caudolateral epiblast, containing cells fated to ingress through the primitive streak and to form lateral plate mesoderm; and prospective mesoderm from one level of the primitive streak, containing cells fated to continue ingressing and form paraxial mesoderm. Grafts from all sites exhibited plasticity. Grafts from the prospective neural plate ectoderm could readily substitute for regions of prospective mesoderm, when transplanted to either the epiblast or primitive streak, undergoing an epithelial-mesenchymal transition and, where appropriate, expressing paraxis, a gene expressed in paraxial mesoderm. Similarly, grafts containing prospective mesoderm from the epiblast could readily substitute for regions of the prospective neural plate ectoderm, undergoing convergent-extension movements characteristic of neuroectodermal cells and expressing appropriate genes such as Engrailed-2 and Hoxb-1. Grafts containing prospective mesoderm from the primitive streak could also incorporate into the neural plate and undergo convergence-extension movements of neurulation, although their principal contribution was to mesodermal and endodermal structures. Collectively, our results demonstrate that at the late gastrula/early neurula stage, germ layer-specific properties are not irrevocably fixed for prospective ectodermal and mesodermal regions of the blastoderm. Moreover, the signals responsible for the induction of these two tissue types must still be present and available at these late stages.

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