• foregut endoderm;
  • neural crest;
  • Hox genes;
  • endodermal segmentation;
  • branchial arches;
  • skeletal patterning;
  • quail-chick chimeras


Hyoid bone is a part of the visceral skeleton which arises from both Hox-expressing (Hox+) and Hox-nonexpressing (Hox-) cephalic neural crest cells. In a previous work, we have demonstrated that the Hox- neural crest domain behaves as a naïve entity to which the ventral foregut endoderm confers patterning cues to specify the shape and orientation of the nasal and mandibular skeleton. By using ablation and grafting approaches, we have extended our study to the formation of the hyoid bone and tested the patterning ability of more caudal levels of the lateroventral foregut endoderm in the chick embryo at the early neurula stage. In this study, endodermal stripes have first been delineated according to the projection of mid- and posterior rhombencephalic structures. The extirpation of endodermal transverse stripes along the anteroposterior axis selectively hampers the formation of the ceratobranchials and epibranchials. Thus defined, the patterning ability of the endodermal stripes was further explored in their medial and lateral parts. When homotopically engrafted on the migration pathway of cephalic neural crest cells, ventromedial zones of endoderm lead to the formation of supernumerary basihyal and basibranchial, while lateral zones generate additional cartilaginous pieces recognizable as ceratobranchial and epibranchial. Taken together, our data demonstrate that, early in development, the ventral foregut endoderm exerts a regionalized patterning activity on the cephalic neural crest to build up the primary facial and visceral skeleton in jaws and neck and enable a map of the endodermal skeletogenic areas to be drawn. This map reveals that a cryptic metamerization of the anterior foregut endoderm precedes the formation of the branchial arches. Developmental Dynamics 228:239–246, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.