Involvement of Wnt-5a in chondrogenic pattern formation in the chick limb bud



Members of the Wnt family are known to play diverse roles in the organogenesis of vertebrates. The full-coding sequences of chicken Wnt-5a were identified and the role it plays in limb development was examined by comparing its expression pattern with that of two other Wnt members, Wnt-4 and Wnt-11, and by misexpressing it with a retrovirus vector in the limb bud. Wnt-5a expression is detected in the limb-forming region at stage 14, and in the apical ectodermal ridge and distal mesenchyme of the limb bud. The signal was graded along the proximal–distal axis at stages 20–28 and also along the anterior–posterior axis during early stages. It disappeared in the cartilage-forming region after stage 26, and was restricted to the region surrounding the phalanges at stage 34. Wnt-4 and Wnt-11, other members of the Wnt-5a-subclass, were expressed with a distinct spatiotemporal pattern during the later phase. Wnt-4 was expressed in the articular structure and Wnt-11 was expressed in the dorsal and ventral mesenchyme adjacent to the ectoderm. Wnt-5a expression was partially reduced after apical ectodermal ridge removal, whereas Wnt-11 expression was down-regulated by dorsal ectoderm removal. Therefore, expression of these Wnt was differentially regulated by the ectodermal signal. Misexpression of Wnt-5a in the limb bud with the retrovirus resulted in truncation of long bones predominantly in the zeugopod because of retarded chondrogenic differentiation. Distal elements, such as the phalanges and metacarpals, were not significantly reduced in size. These results suggest that Wnt-5a is involved in pattern formation along the proximal–distal axis by regulation of chondrogenic differentiation.