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Development. 1998 Sep;125(17):3461-72.

A distinct developmental programme for the cranial paraxial mesoderm in the chick embryo.

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Department of Developmental Neurobiology, UMDS, Guy's Hospital, London, SE1 9RT, UK.


Cells of the cranial paraxial mesoderm give rise to parts of the skull and muscles of the head. Some mesoderm cells migrate from locations close to the hindbrain into the branchial arches where they undergo muscle differentiation. We have characterised these migratory pathways in chick embryos either by DiI-labelling cells before migration or by grafting quail cranial paraxial mesoderm orthotopically. These experiments demonstrate that depending on their initial rostrocaudal position, cranial paraxial mesoderm cells migrate to fill the core of specific branchial arches. A survey of the expression of myogenic genes showed that the myogenic markers Myf5, MyoD and myogenin were expressed in branchial arch muscle, but at comparatively late stages compared with their expression in the somites. Pax3 was not expressed by myogenic cells that migrate into the branchial arches despite its expression in migrating precursors of limb muscles. In order to test whether segmental plate or somitic mesoderm has the ability to migrate in a cranial location, we grafted quail trunk mesoderm into the cranial paraxial mesoderm region. While segmental plate mesoderm cells did not migrate into the branchial arches, somitic cells were capable of migrating and were incorporated into the branchial arch muscle mass. Grafted somitic cells in the vicinity of the neural tube maintained expression of the somitic markers Pax3, MyoD and Pax1. By contrast, ectopic somitic cells located distal to the neural tube and in the branchial arches did not express Pax3. These data imply that signals in the vicinity of the hindbrain and branchial arches act on migrating myogenic cells to influence their gene expression and developmental pathways.

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