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Keywords:

  • dorsal aorta;
  • endoderm;
  • notochord;
  • quail-chick chimera;
  • somite

Blood vessel formation is a highly dynamic tissue-remodeling event that can be observed from early development in vertebrate embryos. Dorsal aortae, the first functional intra-embryonic blood vessels, arise as two separate bilateral vessels in the trunk and undergo lateral-to-medial translocation, eventually fusing into a single large vessel at the midline. After this dramatic remodeling, the dorsal aorta generates hematopoietic stem cells. The dorsal aorta is a good model to use to increase our understanding of the mechanisms controlling the establishment and remodeling of larger blood vessels in vivo. Because of the easy accessibility to the developing circulatory system, quail and chick embryos have been widely used for studies on blood vessel formation. In particular, the mapping of endothelial cell origins has been performed using quail-chick chimera analysis, revealing endothelial, vascular smooth muscle, and hematopoietic cell progenitors of the dorsal aorta. The avian embryo model also allows conditional gene activation/inactivation and direct observation of cell behaviors during dorsal aorta formation. This allows a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying specific morphogenetic events during dynamic dorsal aorta formation from a cell behavior perspective.