Regression of blood vessels precedes cartilage differentiation during chick limb development


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Abstract. We have previously investigated distinct areas of vascular regression in the developing vascular system of the chick limb bud. Avascular areas appear in a characteristic spatial and temporal pattern, and are correlated with the position of developing cartilage. In the present study, we examined limb-bud sections which had been double labeled for endothelial cells and developing cartilage in order to determine the relationship between the appearance of cartilage and the disappearance of capillaries. Endothelial cells, which specifically take up acetylated low-density lipo-protein (acLDL), were labeled by intravenously injecting fluorescent acLDL (DiIacLDL) into chick embryos at Hamburger and Hamilton stages 26–30. Avascular zones, which correspond to the developing digits, were clearly visible within the fluorescently labeled distal vasculature. The same sections were labeled with monoclonal antibodies specific for cartilage. We found that progressing avascularity in the digital regions was followed by increased staining for cartilage antigens in the same areas. Zones of avascularity always developed earlier than morphologically and immunologically detectable cartilage in all planes of section and were always larger than the areas of cartilage. These results demonstrate that blood vessels disappear in predictable areas prior to the overt differentiation of cartilage.