Recent studies have demonstrated a link between limb reduction defects and mesonephros removal [Geduspan and Solursh, 1992) Dev. Biol., 151:242-250]. However, there is some question as to whether the limb-reduction defects seen in that study resulted from the removal of mesonephros or from the formation of scar tissue medial to the limb territory. The current study was conducted to test the hypothesis that elimination of the mesonephros without producing scar tissue adjacent to the limb will adversely affect limb morphogenesis. The hypothesis was tested by the insertion of tantalum foil barriers into various levels of the intermediate mesoderm of developing chick embryos to prevent the caudal elongation of the mesonephros. Limb reduction defects were obtained when the mesonephros was prevented from forming caudal to somite 14. No limb defects were seen when a foil barrier was placed into the intermediate mesoderm at the level of somite 21 or 25. Our results support the notion that a signal from the mesonephros is necessary for normal limb development. In addition, it appears that a craniocaudal factor emanating from the mesonephros plays a role in limb development. The limb reduction defects obtained in this study were also compared to the pattern of thalidomide embryopathy in humans. There is a close correspondence between the types of limb reduction anomalies seen with thalidomide and mesonephric blocks and between the severity of defects vs. the timing of thalidomide intake or mesonephric blockage. A model for possible thalidomide embryopathy is presented.
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