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Abstract

The morphology of the closing plates between adjacent pharyngeal arches was examined in chick embryos between stages 11 and 21 (HamburgerHamilton). Each closing plate is formed by apposition between the basal surfaces of portions of the pharyngeal pouch endoderm and the ectoderm of the overlying pharyngeal cleft. Initial contact between ectoderm and endoderm occurs at several small points which are separated by regions containing mesenchymal cells and extracellular material. Contact between the opposed epithelia is made by extension of cellular processes through the intervening basal laminae and extracellular space. Endodermal and ectodermal cells then interdigitate to create a cellular layer which rapidly thins. The interposed extracellular material is sequestered into small pools as cellular interdigitation proceeds. Perforations form through certain regions of closing plates 1–3 and persist during the stages studied. Small slit-like depressions appear between cells of the closing plate just prior to perforation. The initial perforations enlarge until they are separated only by thin cellular strands. These strands presumably rupture, leaving small cellular accumulations which persist for a short time marking the junction between ectoderm and endoderm along the walls of adjacent pharyngeal arches. Clear evidence of cell degeneration is rare. These results suggest that cellular reorganization, rather than cell death, is a major mechanism of initial perforation.