Send to

Choose Destination
Dev Biol. 1998 Apr 1;196(1):33-41.

Morphological diversity of the avian foot is related with the pattern of msx gene expression in the developing autopod.

Author information

Departamento de Ciencias Morfológicas y Biología Animal y Celular, Universidad de Extremadura, Badajoz, 06071, Spain.


The formation of the digits in amniota embryos is accompanied by apoptotic cell death of the interdigital mesoderm triggered through BMP signaling. Differences in the intensity of this apoptotic process account for the establishment of the different morphological types of feet observed in amniota (i.e., free-digits, webbed digits, lobulated digits). The molecular basis accounting for the differential pattern of interdigital cell death remains uncertain since the reduction of cell death in species with webbed digits is not accompanied by a parallel reduction in the pattern of expression of bmp genes in the interdigital regions. In this study we show that the duck interdigital web mesoderm exhibits an attenuated response to both BMP-induced apoptosis and TGFbeta-induced chondrogenesis in comparison with species with free digits. The attenuated response to these signals is accompanied by a reduced pattern of expression of msx-1 and msx-2 genes. Local application of FGF in the duck interdigit expands the domain of msx-2 expression but not the domain of msx-1 expression. This change in the expression of msx-2 is followed by a parallel increase in spontaneous and exogenous BMP-induced interdigital cell death, while the chondrogenic response to TGFbetas is unchanged. The regression of AER, as deduced by the pattern of extinction of fgf-8 expression, takes place in a similar fashion in the chick and duck regardless of the differences in interdigital cell death and msx gene expression. Implantation of BMP-beads in the distal limb mesoderm induces AER regression in both the chick and duck. This finding suggests an additional role for BMPs in the physiological regression of the AER. It is proposed that the formation of webbed vs free-digit feet in amniota results from a premature differentiation of the interdigital mesoderm into connective tissue caused by a reduced expression of msx genes in the developing autopod.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center