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Keywords:

  • limb bud initiation;
  • limb-type morphology;
  • Tbx genes;
  • FGFs

Abstract

While the paired forelimb and hindlimb buds of vertebrates are initially morphologically homogeneous, as the limb progenitors differentiate, each individual tissue element attains a characteristic limb-type morphology that ultimately defines the constitution of the forelimb or hindlimb. This review focuses on contemporary understanding of the regulation of limb bud initiation and formation of limb-type specific morphologies and how these regulatory mechanisms evolved in vertebrates. We also attempt to clarify the definition of the terms limb-type identity and limb-type morphology that have frequently been used interchangeably. Over the last decade, three genes, Tbx4, Tbx5, and Pitx1, have been extensively studied for their roles in limb initiation and determining limb-type morphologies. The role of Tbx4 and Tbx5 in limb initiation is clearly established. However, their putative role in the generation of limb-type morphologies remains controversial. In contrast, all evidence supports a function for Pitx1 in determination of hindlimb morphologies. Developmental Dynamics 240:1017–1027, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.