• limb bud;
  • N-cadherin;
  • sorting-out;
  • positional identity;
  • pattern formation


Mesenchymal cells from different stages of chick limb buds sort out in monolayer culture, suggesting the presence of different cell affinities dependent on their positions along the proximodistal axis. However, it is still not clear which molecules are responsible for the sorting-out. Here, we propose that N-cadherin, a cell-adhesion molecule, is involved in the sorting-out and is likely to be a component of the mechanism of proximodistal patterning in the developing limb. N-cadherin proteins accumulate in the distal region of the chick limb bud as limb development proceeds. In monolayer culture of distal mesenchymal cells, the stage-dependent levels of N-cadherin proteins are maintained during cell sorting. The results of this study have also demonstrated that an anti-N-cadherin monoclonal antibody, NCD-2, clearly inhibits the cell sorting. Moreover, removal of the apical ectodermal ridge or retinoic-acid treatment of distal cells, which results in a change in the pattern of sorting-out, inhibits the accumulation of N-cadherin proteins, suggesting that the distribution of these proteins is related to the positional identity that gives rise to the different shape and number of cartilage elements along the proximodistal axis. Dev Dyn 1999;216:274–284. ©1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.