• Pax2;
  • nephric duct;
  • paraxial mesoderm;
  • intermediate mesoderm;
  • dermomyotome;
  • sclerotome;
  • myotome

Background: In the vertebrate embryo, skeletal muscle and the axial skeleton arise from the somites. Patterning of the somites into the respective somite compartments, namely dermomyotome, myotome, and sclerotome, depends on molecular signals from neighboring structures, including surface ectoderm, neural tube, notochord, and lateral plate mesoderm. A potential role of the intermediate mesoderm, notably the Wolffian or nephric duct, in somite development is poorly understood. Results: We studied somite compartmentalization as well as muscular and skeletal development after surgical ablation of the early Wolffian duct anlage, which lead to loss of the Wolffian duct and absence of the mesonephros, whereas Pax2 expression in the nephrogenic mesenchyme was temporarily maintained. We show that somite compartments, as well as the somite derivatives, skeletal muscle and the cartilaginous skeleton, develop normally in the absence of the Wolffian duct. Conclusions: Our results indicate that development of the musculoskeletal system is independent of the Wolffian duct as a signaling center. Developmental Dynamics 242:941–948, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.