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Development. 1998 Oct;125(20):4019-32.

Muscle and tendon morphogenesis in the avian hind limb.

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DCMB Group, Duke University, LSRC Building, Research Drive Durham, NC 27708-1000, USA.


The proper development of the musculoskeletal system in the tetrapod limb requires the coordinated development of muscle, tendon and cartilage. This paper examines the morphogenesis of muscle and tendon in the developing avian hind limb. Based on a developmental series of embryos labeled with myosin and tenascin antibodies in whole mount, an integrative description of the temporal sequence and spatial pattern of muscle and tendon morphogenesis and their relationship to cartilage throughout the chick hind limb is presented for the first time. Anatomically distinct muscles arise by the progressive segregation of muscle: differentiated myotubes first appear as a pair of dorsal and ventral muscle masses; these masses subdivide into dorsal and ventral thigh, shank and foot muscle masses; and finally these six masses segregate into individual muscles. From their initial appearance, most myotubes are precisely oriented and their pattern presages the pattern of future, individual muscles. Anatomically distinct tendons emerge from three tendon primordia associated with the major joints of the limb. Contrary to previous reports, comparison of muscle and tendon reveals that much of their morphogenesis is temporally and spatially closely associated. To test whether reciprocal muscle-tendon interactions are necessary for correct muscle-tendon patterning or whether morphogenesis of each of these tissues is autonomous, two sets of experiments were conducted: (1) tendon development was examined in muscleless limbs produced by coelomic grafting of early limb buds and (2) muscle development was analyzed in limbs where tendon had been surgically altered. These experiments demonstrate that in the avian hind limb the initial morphogenetic events, formation of tendon primordia and initial differentiation of myogenic precursors, occur autonomously with respect to one another. However, later morphogenetic events, such as subdivision of muscle masses and segregation of tendon primordia into individual tendons, do require to various degrees reciprocal interactions between muscle and tendon. The dependence of these later morphogenetic events on tissue interactions differs between different proximodistal regions of the limb.

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