Development (Cambridge, England)

The dissociation of the Fgf-feedback loop controls the limbless state of the neck.

PMID 16314488


In tetrapods, limbs develop at two specific positions along the anteroposterior axis of the embryo, whereas other regions of the embryo, most prominently the neck and the flank, are limbless. However, the flank can generate an ectopic limb when the Fgf-feedback loop crucial for the initiation of limb budding is activated. Thus, despite its limblessness, the flank is a limb-competent area. Using the chick embryo as model, we investigated whether the neck, as the flank, has the competence to form a limb, and what mechanism may regulate its limblessness. We show that forelimb lateral mesoderm plus ectoderm grafted into the neck can continue limb development, suggesting that the neck does not actively inhibit this process. However, neck tissues themselves do not support or take part in limb formation. Hence, the neck is limb-incompetent. This is due to the dismantling of Fgf signalling at distinct points of the MAPK signalling cascade in the neck lateral mesoderm and ectoderm.