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Dev Biol. 1998 Apr 1;196(1):11-23.

Local inhibitory action of BMPs and their relationships with activators in feather formation: implications for periodic patterning.

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School of Medicine, University of Southern California, HMR 204, 2011 Zonal Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA.


The formation of periodic patterns is fundamental in biology. Theoretical models describing these phenomena have been proposed for feather patterning; however, no molecular candidates have been identified. Here we show that the feather tract is initiated by a continuous stripe of Shh, Fgf-4, and Ptc expression in the epithelium, which then segregates into discrete feather primordia that are more strongly Shh and Fgf-4 positive. The primordia also become Bmp-2 and Bmp-4 positive. Bead-mediated delivery of BMPs inhibits local feather formation in contrast with the activators, SHH and FGF-4, which induce feather formation. Both FGF-4 and SHH induce local expression of Bmp-4, while BMP-4 suppresses local expression of both. FGF-4 also induces Shh. Based on these findings, we propose a model that involves (1) homogeneously distributed global activators that define the field, (2) a position-dependent activator of competence that propagates across the field, and (3) local activators and inhibitors triggered in sites of individual primordia that act in a reaction-diffusion mechanism. A computer simulation model for feather pattern formation is also presented.

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