SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Hensen's node, regarded as the avian and mammalian homologue of Spemann's neural inducer (i.e., the amphibian dorsal blastoporal lip), has been transplanted in many previous studies to the germinal crescent of avian blastoderms to examine ectopic neural induction. All these studies have suffered from one or more major shortcomings, the most significant of which has been the lack of a reliable cell marker to determine the contributions of graft cells to ectopic embryos. In the absence of such marker, induced (i.e., derived from the host) and self-differentiated (i.e., derived from the graft) neurepithelium cannot be distinguished from one another with certainty. We have transplanted quail Hensen's nodes to chick host blastoderms and have subsequently used the quail nucleolar heterochromatin marker to identify graft cells unequivocally. We systematically varied both donor and host ages (i.e., stages 3–8 and 3–5, respectively) to examine the effects of age on ectopic neural induction and self-differentiation. Our results demonstrate that the age of the donor is more critical than that of the host over the stages examined. With advancing donor age, the frequency of host induction decreases, while the frequency of graft self-differentiation increases. Previous studies not using cell markers have concluded that the craniocaudal level of the induced neuraxis is determined by the age of the donor, that is, young donors induce cranial neuraxial levels, whereas old donors induce caudal levels. By contrast, we found that with grafts from older donors, neurepithelium was more commonly self-differentiated rather than induced and that progressively more caudal levels of the neuraxis self-differentiated with advancing donor age. Induction of caudal neuraxial levels never occurred in the absence of induced cranial levels. The frequency of neural induction was inversely correlated with the age of the donor and directly correlated with the quantity of graft endodermal cells contributed to the ectopic embryo, supporting a previous assertion that in avian embryos, the earliest and principal source of neural inducer lies within the endoderm rather than mesoderm. From our results, we propose that the role of neural induction is to produce neurepithelium of unspecified regional character, and that the formation of regional character depends on subsequent morphogenetic events.